2012 - %3, August

Does GOP Senate Candidate Josh Mandel Think Paul Ryan Is "Un-American"?

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 11:50 AM EDT
GOP Senate candidate Josh Mandel of Ohio.

Josh Mandel is the boyish-faced, factually-challenged Republican candidate vying to unseat Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Until last weekend, Mandel had refused to stake out a clear position on what had become a key issue in this Rust Belt race: whether Congress was right to rescue auto manufacturers General Motors and Chrysler with a $15 billion federal bailout. It was a glaring omission for Mandel, a national candidate in a battleground state where the automotive industry employs upwards of 140,000 Ohioans.

In a joint interview with Brown on Sunday, however, Mandel broke his silence in a big way. He called Brown "un-American" for voting in favor of the auto industry bailout, claiming that non-union retirees at Delphi, a GM parts supplier, got screwed out of of their pensions because of the government bailouts. (As PolitiFact notes, that's not quite true.) 

There's a big problem with branding a yes vote on the auto bailout "un-American": The presumptive vice-presidential nominee for Mandel's own party, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), voted yes for that same bailout. Is Ryan un-American, too?

I put that question to Mandel spokesman Travis Considine in an email early Tuesday morning. Considine has yet to reply; we'll update this post if he does.

Ryan was one of 32 House Republicans to vote for the auto bailout on December 10, 2008, vastly outnumbered by the 150 House GOPers who voted against it. Then-Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), in Congress' upper chamber, also voted in support of the auto bailout; he was joined by seven other Senate Republicans. Is Voinovich also un-American, according to Mandel?

Mitt Romney has a more complicated record on the auto bailout. In November 2008, he wrote an op-ed titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." He argued then that rescuing the auto companies would only lead to their demise further down the road. (He was wrong.) Later, Romney tried to claim credit for the auto industry's rebound, despite his insistence that the bailouts would ruin the companies.

Brown, who was present when Mandel called him un-American, declined to respond directly to the charge. Here's the full exchange between Brown and Mandel, as reported by the Columbus Dispatch:

"I don't toss around the word un-American very often—it's a dangerous word to use. But stripping...Delphi employees of their pensions with that [bailout] vote—that is un-American," Mandel said during a sit-down with Brown and editors and reporters of the Dispatch.

"While Josh was running for treasurer in 2009 and 2010, I guess he missed how this auto industry was going to implode," Brown replied. "And to say that my votes closed plants or that my votes caused Delphi workers to lose their pensions or that my votes caused other tragedies and devastations in the auto industry is peculiar when all four auto companies in Ohio and almost the entire supply chain…wanted this because they knew the auto industry might implode."

Brown didn't say anything about the "un-American" label, but one of his campaign aides later said it was disrespectful.

Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Andrew Zucker responded to Mandel's "un-American" charge, saying that "Josh Mandel's opposition to the auto rescue that helped to protect nearly 850,000 Ohio jobs is wildly out of touch with Ohio's middle class, and that's why he's resorted to a despicable personal attack on Sherrod Brown that has no place in our political discourse."

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Ohio Miners Required to Attend Romney Rally

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 11:45 AM EDT

You may have seen this photo of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney from earlier this month. Shot by Wheeling Intelligencer photographer Scott McCloskey, it shows Romney appearing at a Beallsville, Ohio rally flanked by a large group of coal miners:

 Associated Press/Wheeling Intelligencer

Associated Press/Wheeling Intelligencer

The rally was meant to show that "Coal Country Stands With Mitt," as the campaign signs touted. But it turns out that the owners of the mine told workers they were required to attend the rally, reports The Plain Dealer (via Grist):

The Pepper Pike company that owns the Century Mine told workers that attending the Aug. 14 Romney event would be both mandatory and unpaid, a top company official said Monday morning in a West Virginia radio interview.
A group of employees who feared they'd be fired if they didn't attend the campaign rally in Beallsville, Ohio, complained about it to WWVA radio station talk show host David Blomquist. Blomquist discussed their beefs on the air Monday with Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore.
Moore told Blomquist that managers "communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend." He said the company did not penalize no-shows.

The radio interview is here. Moore also confirms that they bused workers to the rally, and that the mine was shut down for the day (probably because so many workers would be at this "mandatory" rally). So even if workers wanted to, you know, work, they'd be forced to take a day off without pay anyway.

Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray is a major Romney supporter, and the company's PAC has given $10,000 to the Republican presidential candidate. This, according to Murray, is because he worries about his workers whose "lives have been destroyed by the policies of Barack Obama."

GOP House Hopeful Pushes Extreme Horse Testicle Metaphor

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 11:41 AM EDT

Ted Yoho, the Republican congressional candidate from Florida's 3rd District who has endorsements from Sarah Palin and the meat cutter at his local supermarket, indulges in some extreme, blood-drenched metaphor. Via Politico, here's one involving a pony:

Ted Yoho is one of the best-known large-animal veterinarians in Central Florida. So in May, when an old friend needed help castrating several miniature horses, Yoho rushed off in between radio interviews he was doing to talk about his underdog congressional campaign and lent his friend some scissors and a hand.

After the deed was done, Yoho held up the horse's testicles and proclaimed: "Washington needs a few more of these."

For rebuttal, here's Spike from My Little Pony:

Yoho is the tea party insurgent and animal doctor who earlier this month pulled off perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2012 cycle. With barely a shred of political experience to his name, he went up against powerful Republican incumbent (and top Planned Parenthood foe) Cliff Stearns. Stearns had a 16 to 1 campaign cash advantage... and still lost the race.

But back to Yoho's metaphorical horse-testicle-based assertion: Given congressional dudes' latest intonations on ladies' bodies, you could actually argue that the last thing Capitol Hill needs is more balls.

And now, enjoy a clip of Yoho talking to a George Bush impersonator: 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 28, 2012

Tue Aug. 28, 2012 11:25 AM EDT

Staff Sgt. Freddie Goggins Jr. of Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division pulls the lanyard and fires a M777 howitzer at Forward Operating Base Al Masaak, southern Afghanistan, Aug. 21. Photo by Lt. Col. Daniel F. Bohmer.

Facts? Who Cares About Facts?

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 10:54 AM EDT

Greg Sargent draws our attention to two quotes today. The first is from Mitt Romney a couple of weeks ago: "You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them."

And then there's this one from a Romney strategist today about the "gutting welfare reform" ad that every fact checker on the planet has said is a flat-out lie: "Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers."

More here from Greg.

Paul Ryan Defends Redefinition of Rape as Just "Stock Language"

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 10:41 AM EDT

It's never a good sign when a politician has to restate, on more than one occasion, that he believes "rape is rape." But that's the position Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has found himself in ever since the topic of "legitimate rape" entered the national conversation. Ryan, as my colleague Nick Baumann pointed out last week, was one of the cosponsors of a measure that would have redefined the rape exception for federal funding of abortion to only include "forcible rape"—a move that could mean victims of date rape or statutory rape would no longer be covered.

Here's Ryan trying to explain his position on rape in an appearance on Fox News, via Politico:

Asked on Fox about having supported legislation that referred to rape as "forcible rape" Monday, Ryan said that was "stock language" that has been used in many bills.
"Look, all these bills were bills to stop taxpayer financing of abortion. Most American agree with us, including pro-choice Americans — that we shouldn’t use hardworking taxpayer dollars to finance abortion," the Wisconsin lawmaker told Bret Baier.
"Rape is rape, period," he said, repeating a phrase he has uttered many times since last week. "This is language that was stock language used for lots of different bills, bills I didn’t author. And that language was removed to be very clear and I agree with that. Removing that language so that we are very clear. Rape is rape. Period. End of story."

This indicates a few things. For one, Paul Ryan either didn't really bother to find out what the specific language regarding rape really meant before he agreed to cosponsor the measure, or he didn't care and in fact does think that some rapes are rapier than others. And his plea that the bill merely used "stock language" suggests that he and other lawmakers were just borrowing the legislative language happily provided by anti-abortion groups such as the National Right to Life Committee who believe that the government should be in the business of deciding which rape victims are worthy of abortion funding.

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Tampa 2012: The Birthers Cometh (With Video)

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 7:29 AM EDT

David Lipinoga, a Republican town committeeman from Amherst, New York, isn't a delegate at the Republic National Convention. He's here to sell stuff—specifically, an Angry Birds-style Android game called "Angry Patriots and Pinheads" that's designed to educate users on the radicalism of President Obama. Here, you can even watch a demo. But, as I found out when I talked to him on Monday outside the press filing center in Tampa, he's also got some...interesting thoughts about President Obama's real name, Social Security number, and place of birth:

One more example why Mitt Romney's birther joke in Michigan last Friday was almost certainly not a gaffe; plenty of conservatives still believe this stuff and Romney wants their votes.

Music by Mike Smirnoff.

"The Best Thing About the Platform Is That Nobody Cares About the Platform"

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 3:15 AM EDT

Former GOP presidential candidate and full-time Mitt Romney troll Fred Karger.Former GOP presidential candidate and full-time Mitt Romney critic Fred KargerIf you don't count Fred Karger, there was only one gay Republican candidate at the happy hour for gay Republican candidates on Monday at Oystercatchers, an upscale seafood joint in Tampa overlooking the St. Petersburg causeway. Nor, for that matter, in a city that's swimming with Republican political heavyweights, were there any Republican political heavyweights in attendance. That's not much of a surprise for a party whose draft platform sought to deny rights to gay families and tacitly endorsed the persecution of gays in Uganda and other African nations.

But Michael Carr, an internet marketer who's running for a state Senate seat in the Denver suburbs, isn't particularly bothered by the GOP's anti-gay platform. "The best thing about the platform is that nobody cares about the platform," Carr says. A member of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's LGBT steering committee (Huntsman was the only GOP candidate with an LGBT steering committee), Carr is the guest of honor at the event, hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans. He's convinced the best is yet to come—Republicans might even nominate a pro-gay marriage presidential candidate as early as 2016.

"Politicians are looking at the data," Carr says. "We might have someone who's on the national stage 'evolve.'" Everyone I talk to at Oystercatchers uses that word, "evolve," a nod to President Obama's own shift on gay rights.

But Carr is being diplomatic. David Valkema ("It means 'falcon' in Dutch"), a Romney delegate from Indiana, is less so. His beef isn't with the homophobic leaders of the Republican party, with whom he agrees with on almost everything else. It's with gay liberals.

"I'm sick and tired of being a Jew for Hitler," he says. "I'm like, 'Where's your tolerance? You accept everyone else under the sun except for us.'" Although a recent poll showed that 44 percent of Republicans in Wisconsin—a comparatively progressive state—say they'd never vote for an openly gay candidate, Valkema thinks Republicans are quietly shifting behind the scenes. Case in point: This summer he helped convince the Indiana GOP to scrap any mention of marriage from the its platform. It wasn't an endorsement of marriage equality, but it wasn't a chest-beating condemnation either.

Last week, for the first time ever, Log Cabin Republicans were invited to participate in the drafting of the RNC platform—a symbolic gesture that didn't leave much of a dent in the final product. But with gay candidates like Carr and Massachusetts congressional candidate Richard Tisei on the ballot this far, they sense a shift.

As Casey Pick, an organizer of the event puts it, "Now, the debate on LGBT equality is completely out of the closet."

Bizarre Super-PAC Targets Liberal Icon Raúl Grijalva...and Sheriff Joe

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 3:15 AM EDT
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a progressive stalwart in Congress, doesn't have much to worry about in his primary election Tuesday. But in the lead-up to it, Grijalva got a nasty taste of the dark-money-funded political warfare that has characterized the 2012 elections.

Voters in Grijalva's southwestern Arizona district opened their mailboxes in recent days to find a mailer attacking their congresssman for voting to cut $716 billion from Medicare, missing more than 400 votes in Congress, and having "voted against jobs for Arizona." The mailer's opposite side strongly endorsed Grijalva's opponent, Amanda Aguirre, calling her "a real Democrat who fights for the middle class." The mailer's source: A mysterious, blandly named super-PAC called the Opportunity for All Committee.

Gingrich: I'd Recommend Pro-Gold Activists for Romney Gold Commission

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 3:00 AM EDT

Ron Paul must be thrilled: After over three decades in the wilderness, the gold standard has returned to the Republican party platform. As Bloomberg reported on Friday, the draft GOP platform—the party's road map for where it wants to lead the country—includes a call for a presidential commission to study pegging the value of the dollar to the price of gold. And even though the primary is long over, Paul is not the only top Republican still pushing for gold to have a big role in Mitt Romney's presidency. 

During the primary, Paul, a long proponent of what he calls "sound money," and later Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, embraced the idea of a gold commission. During the South Carolina primary, Gingrich said that he'd appoint Lewis Lehrman, a banker, and Jim Grant, a prominent investment adviser, to co-chair the gold commission. Both Lehrman and Grant (Paul's pick to replace Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve) are prominent advocates of the gold standard. 

Now that the commission he and Paul supported is part of the draft party platform, I asked Gingrich whether he still supported Lehrman and Grant's appointments—and whether he'd push Mitt Romney to appoint them if elected president. "Yes," he said. "I'd recommend them." Romney himself has expressed skepticism about the gold standard, which he told CNBC's Larry Kudlow in January is not a "magic bullet substitute for economic restraint." He'd be free to ignore the GOP platform and Gingrich's recommendations if elected president. But the inclusion of the commission proposal in the platform, and Gingrich's willingness to press the issue, suggest that Romney will remain under some pressure from his right to at least acknowledge the concerns of gold proponents.

The idea of a gold commission isn't new—Ronald Reagan established one in 1981, but the members voted 15 to 2 against advising a return to gold. (Lehrman was one of the dissenters.) America's monetary policy was based on the gold standard for much of its history, until President Richard Nixon abandoned it for good in 1971. Since then, a small but significant movement, often led by Paul has advocated a return to gold.

Today, Lehrman is the chairman of the Lehrman Institute, which pushes for "prosperity through gold." Its website is thegoldstandardnow.org. Grant is a senior adviser to the group.

Most modern economists are skeptical of the idea, and liberal ones absolutely loathe it. A recent University of Chicago poll of top economists found that zero agreed that "defining a 'dollar' as a specific number of ounces of gold" would lead to better "price-stability and employment outcomes" for "the average American." Paul Krugman, the liberal icon (and target of many Paul fans' ire) wrote Sunday that "under the gold standard America had no major financial panics other than in 1873, 1884, 1890, 1893, 1907, 1930, 1931, 1932, and 1933." Famed economist Milton Friedman, who could not be mistaken for a Krugmanite, famously said "those people who say they believe in a gold standard are fundamentally being very anti-libertarian because what they mean by a gold standard is a governmentally fixed price for gold."