Archive for 2011

Press Clips: GOP Debate’s Media Winners & Losers

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

This just in: The results are final, and it’s clear that the landslide winner of the Republican presidential debate was…Ron Paul.

That at least is the shocking conclusion to be drawn from the “Who Do You Think Won the Debate” feature on “First Read,” MSNBC’s political blog.

Following the Wednesday night event at the Reagan Library, the site reports that 85,205 of 161,499 respondents to its online insta-poll – 52.8% – declared Uncle Cranky Pants the victor, the most controversial piece of public opinion research since the last Vote for Your Favorite Lady Gaga Look survey.

You can’t blame FR for trying, given the competition for eyeball-driven, warp speed wipe-out wave of instant analysis, You Tube mashups, Top 10 takeaways,  Twitter snark bites and W&L lists caroming around the internets about a cable network debate a mere 14 months before the election.

Show business for ugly people: The only sight more cringeworthy for viewers of the debate than Jon Huntsman’s shiny spray tan was the awful showing by John Harris, the editor-in-chief of Politico, which co-sponsored the event.

On a night when the political junkie site had a chance to shine on a national stage, its co-founder put on an awkward and clumsy performance better suited to 2 a.m. local cable access than to prime time.

Introduced by Brian Williams, Harris high-beamed a wide-eyed, unblinking visage of terror directly into the camera, his gaze apparently locked in place by multiple injections of ibogaine.

When a technical malfunction screwed up the plan to use an old video clip of Mitt Romney to pose a question, Harris looked dazed in yanking out his IFB and flopping around behind the moderator’s desk like a catfish in a boat bottom.

After leaving the set during a commercial break, perhaps to wolf down a Xanax, he came back as the broadcast was resuming, and walked directly between the camera and Nancy Reagan, in the middle of Williams’ slobbering tribute to the former First Lady.

When Newt Gingrich bitch-slapped him for asking a question he didn’t like, Harris seemed to an untrained eye to be wetting his pants, as he inanely mumbled “okay, okay” in response.

Jim VandeHei, Harris’ business partner and Politico’s executive editor, nearly redeemed the site with a post-game appearance in which he made several swift and sharp observations, calling attention, for example, to the vast improvement Romney has made as a candidate since 2008; unfortunately he was quickly drowned out by the insufferable braying of Chris Matthews, who is hardwired to instantly and automatically interrupt anytime one of his guests  starts saying something interesting or intelligent.

The nadir of Politico’s dismal effort came the next morning, with its own coverage of the debate. In recounting Michele Bachmann’s performance, ex-tabloid reporter Maggie Haberman, who covers California politics from a perch in Manhattan, wrote the single stupidest line among all the zillions of words spent on the event:

(Bachmann) held her ground on issues like reducing the price of gas to $2 per gallon if she’s president, and called for a full border fence.

There you have it: an unalloyed nugget of 100% pure Beltway idiocy confirming yet again why the American public is right to hate the media.

Never mind that Bachmann’s promise of $2 per gallon gas is ineluctable proof of the woman’s full-blown, cuckoo-land psychosis, a recurring delusion that should prohibit any serious discussion of her fitness to be president.

No indeed. Reality be damned, the key issue for Politico and its legions of cynical “insider” brethren is that she held her ground on her nutty claim.

Lefties for Mitt: Perhaps it couldn’t be helped, given that MSNBC, the Marxist-Socialist-Nanny-state-Bolshevik-Communist network, was co-sponsoring the debate, but we did wonder whether an in-studio panel consisting of Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell, Gene Robinson, Ed Schultz, and Rachel Maddow was the best group to analyze, you know, a Republican debate.

Schultz and O’Donnell were about as useful as farts in an elevator, but Maddow did a nice job of airline control anchoring, low-keying her own opinions as she smoothly kept the flow among and between a battalion of panelists, guest commentators and spin room appearances, in contrast to the foghorn rantings of Matthews, who was exiled for the night to Simi Valley, no doubt on the theory he could do less harm there.

Sharpton’s tirade against the candidates’ embrace of “states rights” was most entertaining, as he got up in Herman Cain’s grill by noting that 60% of the MSNBC panel – Maddow, Robinson and himself – would be ineligible to even vote for president if states righters had their way back in the day. (Also, we now know that Galileo is pronounced “Gal-ay-o” in eubonics.)

And our old friend Gene was suitably outraged at Cain’s repeated canard that the Chilean pension system, Mr. Pizza King’s hobby horse for the evening, is not privatized; “With all due respect, Mr. Cain, I covered South America,” he said, coolly managing to keep his head from exploding.

But let’s face it, being Al Sharpton’s favorite Republican can’t really be all that comforting to His Mittness.

Right from the start: Unfailingly Fair and Balanced, Calbuzz spent a few hours noodling around the best of the right-wing blogs and sites, and strongly  recommend checking out Michelle Malkin’s “Why the Reagan Library GOP Debate Sucked,” which tells you all you need to know about how red state true believers saw the debate  (best line: holding a GOP debate on MSNBC was like having the “Yankees network interrogating the Red Sox”).

For our money, Guy Benson at TownHall not only had the best winners and losers list from the starboard perspective, but also the best-edited compilation of the Perry vs. Romney set-to on Social Security.

For self-interest purposes, we also appreciated Red State’s urging that Santorum, Cain and Bachmann drop out of the race ASAP. The Gnomes of Flashreport did yeoperson’s work compiling the most encyclopedic collection of coverage links; while we enjoy wandering around a garage sale as much as the next guy, however, our personal round-up preference was Jack Kavanagh’s  professionally edited selection.

Speaking of practical and useful reader-friendly journalism, at a time when every MSM organization on air has pretensions of fact-checking political candidates, the Washpost’s Glenn Kessler is still the go-to guy for this stuff. His debate offering is here.

ICYMI: Here it is, Ron Paul’s double-barreled paean to 10 cents-per-gallon gas and a precious metal monetary standard, the debate highlight that singularly demonstrates why he’s the hands-down favorite of Republicans who still live with their moms.



Obama Calls for Jobs; GOP Splits on Social Security

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Toward the end of President Obama’s feisty American Jobs Act speech Thursday night, he made one passing, but politically key, reference to Social Security:

“What kind of country would this be if this chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do?” Obama asked. “How many Americans would have suffered as a result?”

One day after Social Security suddenly became the driving issue in the GOP  presidential nomination race, it was only one of the examples Obama used to challenge Republicans in  Congress who “sincerely believe that the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations.”

But it clearly demonstrated both how wholly embedded Social Security is in American society and how out-of-the-political-mainstream is the notion of not having the most crucial element of the government safety net.

Last night, sounding like an actual, energized Democrat with his repeated call on Congress to “pass this jobs plan right away,” Obama said his Rooseveltian $447 billion program “will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for the long-term unemployed.

“It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business,” he said. “It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and hire, there will be customers for their products and services. You should pass this jobs plan right away.”

Perry’s Ponzi scheme: Whether congressional Republicans in Congress will move much, if any, of Obama’s plan forward is highly doubtful.

As former GOP congressional staffer Mike Lofgren has written so brilliantly, many of them are committed to one goal: destroying the Obama presidency at any cost. But even so, few of them are likely to take up GOP presidential contender Rick Perry’s line of attack against Social Security.

And that’s what unexpectedly emerged as a fault line within the Republican Party at Wednesday’s night at the Reagan Library debate in Simi Valley.

It was there that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt (“Uncle Morticia”) Romney made the most important strategic move in the campaign thus far: he took the Ronald Reagan/Bill Clinton position that it’s Washington’s job to save Social Security, not dismantle it.

“The governor says look, states ought to be able to opt out of Social Security. Our nominee has to be someone who isn’t committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to saving Social Security,” Romney said, making an argument that he immediately stepped up on Thursday.

This was in stark contrast to the GOP’s flavor-of-the-month front-runner, Texas Gov. Rick (“Snake Slayer”) Perry, who continued to insist that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme – that is, an illegal financial scam where early investors are paid not from profits but from the cash flow generated by new investors – and a monstrous lie to young people paying into the system. (BTW, we’re pretty sure Perry actually knows little about late, lamented Charles Ponzi.)

“Vote Perry” posters at the White House: If Obama and the Democrats had been hoping to be able to attack the Republican nominee for advocating the elimination of Social Security and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Medicare, the only candidate against which that approach can now succeed would be Perry.

Romney clearly sees Perry’s stand as a political blunder, arguing Thursday that Perry had rendered himself unelectable and that his nomination could lead to a Democratic landslide in 2012. “If we nominate someone who the Democrats could correctly characterize as being against Social Security we would be obliterated as a party,” Romney said on Sean Hannity’s radio show.

As for Perry, while he may have helped himself with younger, alienated conservative Republicans (who don’t regularly vote in Republican primaries), he may well have undercut his appeal to older, lower- and moderate-income Republicans (who do vote) in places like Florida, Arizona and any southern state where retired folks on fixed incomes are living in double-wides and taking in the early bird special.

We can just hear the barber shop debate now:

“You hear that Perry fella wants to do away with our Social Security?”
“Yeah, but at least he ain’t no damn Mormon.”
“I’d take one of them garment guys over somebody wants my disability.”
“I reckon you got a point there.”

Case closed.

What happened after the debate: As you’ve doubtless discerned by now, Calbuzz refused to contribute to the shameless spectacle of slapdash superficial instant debate analysis, although we confess that decision had less to do with principle and more with finding ourselves face-down in the guacamole by the time the event ended, the unintended consequence of foolishly entering a drinking game that required us to chug a Red Headed Slut every time Herman Cain mentioned his “9-9-9” tax plan or the pension system in Chile.

And though Perry’s bold (reckless?) commitment to attacking Social Security and Romney’s counter-parry were the most important political dynamics of the encounter, what really set our heads spinning was the Texan’s invocation of Galileo, or, as they refer to him in Austin, “that sumbitch heliocentrist.”

As every school kid knows, Galileo’s insistence that the Earth revolves around the Sun enraged the big brains of the Catholic Church and, in 1615, the Roman Inquisition started to hound him. After he published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems – seen as an attack on Pope Urban VIII — he was tried and found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” being finally forced to recant, spending the rest of his life under house arrest.

But when Perry was asked to defend his view that man-made climate change is just a hoax – despite the fact that 98% of scientists say otherwise – he claimed:

Well, I do agree that there is — the science is — is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at — at — at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just — is nonsense. I mean, it — I mean — and I tell somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.

Huh? Galileo’s scientific findings were not “outvoted” by other scientists, but by the Vatican, which was theologically committed to the Ptolemaic notion of geocentrism – that the Sun and planets revolve around the Earth — which they concluded from their reading of the Bible.

The persecution of Galileo exemplified the opposite of the point Perry was trying to make, a vivid reminder of what happens when science is cast aside in favor of theology — precisely the way  Perry approaches climate change and (along with most of the other GOP candidates) evolution.

Just another example of the willful, zealous ignorance that passes for ideology among the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.

Debate Preview: GOP Hopefuls Would Reject Reagan

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

The Republican presidential candidates debating this evening at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley have an insoluble problem on their hands:

Everything they say to win support of the conservative forces they need to win the GOP nomination will further distance them from mainstream American voters in general and California’s moderate, independent, centrist voters in particular.

Pick an issue: Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, public education, health care, taxes on the wealthy, environmental protections, climate change, religion in the schools, citizenship for immigrants, investment in roads, bridges, flood control and transportation or, above all, compromise with the Democrats.

Just about any stand the candidates take to please the Tea Party Wing of the GOP on any of these issues will come back to bite them when they have to appeal to the broad center in order to win the White House in November.

The results of the recent USC Dornsife College/Los Angeles Times Poll of California voters demonstrate how this all works in California. In head-to-head match ups, President Obama smothers any of the GOP candidates by about 2-to-1. But if you use support/non-support for the Tea Party movement as a demographic, here’s what you find:

— Obama vs Mitt Romney: 67-20% among non-TP voters; 20-74% among TP voters.
— Obama vs Rick Perry: 69-16% among non-TP voters; 22-73% among TP voters.
— Obama vs Michele Bachmann: 70-16% among non-TP voters; 22-70% among TP voters.

The problem for the Republicans: only 27% of the California voters support the Tea Party movement; 73% do not.

Because this evening’s debate is at the Reagan Library, we can expect to hear a lot of slavish praise for the late Gipper. But the mad hatters who now control the agenda of the Republican Party, and those who decide what is and what is not an acceptable stand for a legitimate member of the GOP, would likely never include Reagan in their big tent.

Don’t take our word. Consider what his most accomplished biographer, Lou Cannon, formerly of the Washington Post, has to say about it.

From his shared commitment with Mikhail Gorbachev on nuclear arms reduction and his reluctance to commit U.S. troops to combat, to Social Security reform and immigration policy, Reagan – though he cast himself as the keeper of the conservative flame – was, by today’s standards a compromising pragmatist.

“He was practical on taxes,” Cannon told Calbuzz. “He reduced income tax rates in 1981, but overshot the mark, as tax bills often do, and approved four tax increases during his presidency, one of which was the tax reform bill of 1986. Reaganites would say that he achieved most of his goals on taxes. The marginal tax rate was 70% when he took office, 28% when he left. The 1986 bill closed a lot of loopholes.

“The point here is that Reagan was practical about taxes as about much else. He told me many times, and my books reflect this, that he was willing to settle for half a loaf or less and come back for more.”

Or consider another policy: immigration. On which Reagan worked out a deal with the Democrats that was fundamentally an amnesty bill. Said Cannon:

“Reagan never was a yahoo on immigration. In his announcement speech in 1980, he called for a ‘North American Accord,’ a sort of common market, of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. The folks in the current Republican field, except maybe for Huntsman, would find this unpatriotic.”

Unlike the current Republican candidates, “Reagan in his campaigns did not talk about abortion or other social issues,” Cannon said “The spirit and the tone of Reagan’s campaigns were Rooseveltian–FDR more than Teddy. Reagan was trying to become president of the United States of America, not the Republican Party.”

In summary, Cannon noted, “I don’t think any of the current Republican crop could win a caucus or a primary if they campaigned on Reagan’s actual record.”

Instead, they’ll campaign over his dead body.

USC/LAT Poll: Bachmann Dead Among CA GOP

Monday, September 5th, 2011

If California Republicans are a good measure – and they’re a huge and diverse sample – Texas Gov. Rick Perry has stuck a fork in Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann: she’s done.

That’s one clear message of the numbers in the latest USC-LA Times poll. Here’s another: President Barack Obama, despite all his troubles, remains poised to cream any of the existing GOP candidates in the state.

Another take-away:  Democrats are fed up with Obama’s practice of appeasement. Six in 10 want him “stand up to Republicans more and fight for my priorities” compared to 33% who say he should “compromise more with Republicans to solve problems.”

In fact, as for compromise, it appears everyone is for it, unless it means they have to compromise. By 57-32% Democrats don’t want any cuts in Social Security or Medicare and by 50-35% Republicans don’t want any revenue increases. This is the stuff of gridlock.

Oh, and in case you thought otherwise – from the massive media coverage these goons have been getting – the so-called Tea Party movement is pretty damn unpopular in California: 48% unfavorable to 28% favorable. Only Republicans have a favorable view of these guys: 59-20%. Among Democrats it’s 66-9% unfavorable and among registered independents it’s 52-20% negative.

These are just some of the findings in the latest survey of 1,408 California registered voters by the Republican firm American Viewpoint and the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for the USC Dornsife College of Letters and Los Angeles Times. The survey was conducted Aug. 27-28 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5% for the overall sample.

In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Perry has eclipsed Bachmann in large measure by stealing away the Tea Party Republicans. Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are tied among Republican primary voters overall at 22% each, with U.S. Rep. Ron Paul trailing at 11% and Bachmann at 10%. But among Tea Party supporters, Perry wins 33%, Romney has 23% and Bachmann just 11%.

It’s too early to tell whether Perry can expand his popularity among the general Republican electorate in California – only 54% of the registered Republicans could identify him compared to 79% for Romney.

On the other hand, among those with an opinion, Romney’s favorable-to-unfavorable rating among Republicans is 57-19%, compared to 41-8% for Perry and 46-21% for Bachmann.

Compared to Obama, they’re all bad cheese. The president’s overall fav/unfav in California is 58-27% positive, including 82-16% among Democrats and 64-33% among registered independents and 75-23% negative among Republicans.

But Romney’s overall fav/unfav is 37-32% unfavorable, including 49-18% negative among Democrats and 39-23% negative among independents.

Perry’s overall is 31-20% unfavorable, including 45-8% negative among Democrats and 35-10% negative among independents.

And Bachmann’s overall is 40-25% unfavorable, including 53-12% negative among Democrats and 44-17% negative among independents.

And while Obama’s favorability is 64-33% among moderates, Romney’s is 38-29% unfavorable, Perry’s is 36-12% unfav and Bachmann’s is 46-17% negative.

Sympathy for the Tea Party has emerged as a powerful demographic measure: Obama’s favorable among those who do not support the movement is 71-27% positive and among those who do support the TP it’s 74-25% negative. Fortunately for Obama, Tea Party supporters comprise just 27% of the registered voters while 73% say they are not supporters.

Which is part of the reason why no Republican in the field has a chance – at this point – against Obama. In fact, while Obama beats a generic Republican candidate 52-37%, in head-to-head match-ups he beats Romney 54-35%, Perry 56-32% and Bachmann 57-31%.

While Republicans and Democrats support their party’s nominee, independents break for Obama 59-26% against Romney, 61-22% against both Perry and Bachmann. Likewise moderates: they go for Obama 62-28% against Romney, 64-24% against Perry and 67-22% against Bachmann.

For more on the survey, check out Cathy Decker’s excellent summary at the LA Times.  There were 500 pages of crosstabs released Sunday night, so Calbuzz will come back to them when we’re not getting ready to slap some meat on the grill.