Between a morning prayer breakfast with state Republican leaders in Tallahassee and tonight's primary debate in Jacksonville, dark-horse presidential candidate Rick Santorum stopped at a half-full auditorium at Florida State University to deliver his anti-Obama message to young conservatives. But at this hard-hit public college in a capital racked with budget woes, Santorum sidestepped the biggest issues facing the school's students.
A small grouping of sign-carrying protesters gathered outside the student union, while even more students circulated unawares through the nearby campus Chili's, as Santorum told the crowd of aboout 200 that the "foundational premise of America" is "the belief in God."
After a brief exposition on the differences between France, with its guillotines, and the United States, with its freedom and vest-pocket-sized copies of the Constitution (one of which he brandished), Santorum knocked Newt Gingrich's latest space-colonization plan and said the former House speaker "wants to spend money like Obama." He added: "The idea that anybody's going out and talking about grand new very expensive schemes to spend more money at a time when we do not have our fiscal house in order, in my opinion, is plain crass politics."
One week ago today, CNN's John King asked Newt Gingrich if it was true that in 1999 he asked his then-wife Marianne Gingrich for an open marriage so that he could continue having an affair with his girlfriend Callista. On national TV, in front of a huge audience, here was his answer:
Now, let me be quite clear. Let me be quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They [i.e., ABC] weren't interested, because they would like to attack any Republican.
There's an odd de facto standard for political lying: you can mislead people to almost any degree and it doesn't really count against you. It's he-said-she-said. But if there's a clear, smoking gun fact that you plainly misrepresent, no matter how trivial, then it's a scandal. By that standard, Newt ought to be in trouble. His dealings with ABC News may not be all that important in the cosmic scheme of things, but by DC standards this is a flat-out, premeditated fabrication and therefore a scandal. Gingrich told a bald-faced lied and he knew he was lying when he did it.
This all fits Newt's personality. He's always been more brazen than even your usual hardened politico because he knows that nobody really cares about fact checking. But he went over the line this time. I wonder if he'll pay a price?
Newt Gingrich and Ronald Reagan in 1985.: Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan LibraryOn Wednesday, Republicans took aim at Newt Gingrich for his past criticisms of Ronald Reagan. The Drudge Report featured 10 anti-Newt stories as of yesterday, none more prominently than Elliot Abrams' takedown of Gingrich at the National Review. The former speaker, Abrams wrote, "spewed insulting rhetoric" and "was voluble and certain in predicting that Reagan's policies would fail."
Set aside, for a minute, the fact that Nancy Reagan considered Newt to be the torch-carrier for her husband's legacy. The problem with Newt Gingrich's 1980s criticism of Ronald Reagan is that it presents today's Republicans with an uncomfortable truth: Gingrich attacked Reagan from the right because there was room to do so. Reagan wasn't always the tax-cutting arch-conservative Republicans make him out to be. He was often a military hawk but not always. He wasn't, frankly, the Ronald Reagan that Republicans speak of with so much reverence today.
Here's a quick guide to Newt's 1980s Reagan bashing (via Lexis and newspaper clippings):
1982: Carter II: From the New York Times: '''It has all the things that Jimmy Carter used to propose that we used to beat up on,' observed Representative Newt Gingrich, a Georgia Republican prominent in the Congressional revolt against the President's $98.9 billion tax bill. That revolt within the President's own party, he added, ''is really a grass-roots rebellion over wrong policy.''' Elsewhere, he publicly bashed Reagan's budget as a "Jimmy Carter tax bill."
c. 1982: Failed economic policies: "Really, Reaganomics has failed. We must regroup. The national government is running amuck. Without a freeze, I don't see breakout out of higher and higher deficits."
1983: Soft on drug abuse and crime: "Beyond the obvious indicators of decay the fact is that President Reagan has lost control of the national agenda."
1985: Appeasement! Gingrich calls Reagan's summit with Gorbachev, ''the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Chamberlain in 1938 at Munich.'
1986: Soft on the Soviet Union: "Measured against the scale and momentum of the Soviet empire's challenge, the Reagan administration has failed, is failing, and without a dramatic fundamental change in strategy will continue to fail."
1987: Betrayed public trust: Per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "'There were two things that people felt they knew about Ronald Reagan. That he was fundamentally honest and that he was a strong America leader who would stand tall and not deal with terrorists,' Gingrich said. The Iran-Contra affair 'violated' both parts of the trust, Gingrich said, 'and it has sahaken people's beliefs.'"
1987: Reagan's legacy is dubious: "The sense of our overpowering belief in Reagan as the most effective president since FDR is probably not retainable."
Via Paul Krugman, this is kind of fascinating. Jonathan Portes provides us with this chart, which shows the trajectory in Britain of both the Great Depression and the current Great Recession. The red and black lines at the bottom are the ones to look at:
Now, there's a bit of cherry picking going on here, I think, since Britain had a nasty recession following World War I and sluggish growth throughout the 1920s, which meant they simply didn't have as far to fall during the 30s as we did. Unemployment was also worse during the 30s than it is today. So take this with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, it's sobering: in Britain at least, the Great Recession of 2008 is, in some ways, arguably worse than the Great Depression was.
Kevin Baird/FlickrOn Thursday, the Pentagon's top leaders are expected to release new details on how they'll scale back military programs to meet President Obama's goal of $487 billion in defense cuts over the next decade. But Republicans in the House and Senate are already plotting how to blunt the impact of the proposed cuts.
At a briefing Thursday afternoon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will announce they're slashing Army troop levels by 80,000 soldiers, or 14 percent of the force, while expanding bases for drones and increasing spending on the types of special forces that killed Osama bin Laden and rescued an American hostage in Somalia this week, according to the Wall Street Journal. "The administration has done a very good job of drafting a budget that meets our strategic needs. The budget reflects a sound understanding of the threats we face, and matches the resources to meet those threats," Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told Politico after being briefed on the defense plan.
James Pethokoukis is pretty upset that President Obama is coming around to the idea of mass refinancing of mortgages, and I'm upset too. The difference is that he's upset Obama is thinking about this at all while I'm upset that Obama didn't think harder about it three years ago. But now there's something new to be upset about: it's possible that Mitt Romney is in favor of mass refinancing too as long as it "doesn't add additional government obligation." Pethokoukis:
Now, Romney could have said something like, “The way to boost housing is to boost the economy and speed up the foreclosure process so the market can clear.” But he didn’t say that. He said this: “Clearly, if there is a way of providing a break to homeowners to get lower interest rates, that is something which has always been part of the refinance story. If it can be done in a way that doesn’t add additional government obligation, that’s one thing.”
My guess is that mass refinancing isn't going to happen in any significant way no matter who's president, so on a substantive level I can't get too excited about all this. But it does demonstrate just how unrealistic our rhetorical expectations have gotten. Just as many on the left would like Obama to announce some kind of mass repudiation of debt that would be political poison, Pethokoukis is upset that Romney didn't basically tell homeowners to all fuck off. Romney 2012!
In practice, allowing foreclosures to work their will on the market has been bipartisan policy ever since the housing bubble burst, but everyone sort of pretends otherwise. That's politics. If you want people to vote for you for president, you avoid rubbing people's noses in bad news and then putting your boot on their neck. Even for a guy like Romney, there's a limit to just how much he's willing to shoot himself in the foot to please the purists and the fanatics.
So, how about that Newt Gingrich fellow? He's down, he's up, he's down, he's up, and now he's down again. Quite frankly, you'd almost think he had some kind of fundamental stability problem.
Of course, I guess what he really has is a Super-PAC problem. Spend a gazillion dollars telling voters that Newt is a lunatic, and the voters listen. Either that or the Marianne Gingrich interview on Nightline was a bigger deal than we jaded sophisticates thought. In any case, it now looks like the course of history is reasserting itself and Mitt Romney is likely to win Florida after all.
US Army Pfc. Eric Guzman, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Task Force Spartan, provides security alongside Afghan Border Police officers while patrolling a village in Khowst province, Afghanistan on January 18, 2012. Photo by the US Army.
On Saturday, Personhood USA–the group behind the flood of bills that define life as starting at conception—will co-host its third forum of the GOP presidential primaries, at Aloma Church in Winter Park, Florida. And, for the third time, Mitt Romney won't be in attendance.
Personhood USA has been busy working its model zygote-is-a-person law around the country, most recently in Mississippi. And it has won endorsements from Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul, who signed the group's pledge. But Romney has neither signed their pledge nor come to their previous events in Iowa or South Carolina.
Governor Romney, again expressly invited, has again neglected to notify organizers of his willingness or disinclination to participate.
"Following President Obama's statement celebrating the Roe v. Wade decision – effectively celebrating the deliberate killing of 54 million innocent American citizens – Personhood USA recognizes the urgency of ensuring that we know where our candidates stand,” stated Keith Mason, President of Personhood USA. "We need a president who values life, and will defend the innocent in word and in deed. We certainly don’t need a candidate who cares nothing for the Sanctity of Life, nor one who will join President Obama in celebrating the deaths of millions."
It's quite interesting that Romney, who has struggled to establish his pro-life cred in this primary, has not been willing to bend on this so far.
The March 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan was the fourth biggest earthquake ever measured, and hands down the biggest earthquake in Japan's recorded history. The stats are terrifying: 9.0 magnitude, 16,000 deaths, 1.5 million households left without water, and of course, ongoing reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. Less obvious to Western observers were the agricultural repercussions of the ensuing tsunami, whose massive waves crashed up to six miles inland and left more than 58,000 acres of Japanese rice paddies (roughly four times the size of Manhattan) completely saturated with saltwater.