The Texas congressman might win Iowa—but that’s about it.
Tim MurphyDec. 9, 2011 7:00 AM
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)
If at any point during the past three decades you had suggested that Ron Paul might win a major Republican nominating contest, you'd probably get a response resembling the face the Texas congressman makes when he's outlining the case for legalizing the sale of raw milk: two parts incredulity, one part mild amusement, a dash of electric shock.
And yet, with the Iowa caucuses one month out, the odds have never been better for the septuagenarian libertarian icon. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, a good barometer of DC wisdom, suggested on Wednesday that Paul might even be a serious contender for the nomination if he would just "hedge his foreign policy views." By which he means: Cut back on the isolationism and whisper more sweet nothings about Israel. (Paul's already taken steps toward the latter.)
Paul might just win Iowa. As Red State founder Erick Erickson points out, he's worked the state harder than almost anyone else and honed his message to appeal to corn belt conservatives (the raw milk line is a winner). But that doesn’t make him a serious contender. As Politico’s Maggie Haberman and others have pointed out, Paul's candidacy has a clear ceiling. Until his opponents start talking about the following issues, you'll know Paul isn't a serious threat:
As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich —until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.
If you want to understand Newt Gingrich, start with what's on his book shelf. That's his advice, anyway. He assigned a reading list to his Republican caucus in 1995, and he peppers his speeches with references to writers like French existentialist Albert Camus. And as Connie Bruck explained in her epic 1995 New Yorker profile, Gingrich was particularly influenced by a novel about a 17th-century Japanese samurai named Toranaga:
[Former campaign manager Carlyle] Gregory also said that in 1978 Gingrich was reading the novel Shogun by James Clavell, and that a major character—Toranaga, a seventeenth-century samurai warlord—had a powerful influence on him. [Gingrich's friend] Daryl Conner, too, told me that Toranaga was a critical model for Gingrich. The book is a narrative of Toranaga's quest for the absolute power of shogun. Throughout the book, Toranaga, who confides in no one, violently repudiates the suggestion of his most loyal followers that he should seek to become shogun, even calling it "treason." Yet, through his study of individuals' psychology, his patience in listening, his system of punishment and reward, his establishment of an elaborate information network of spies, and his talent in projecting a wholly false self-image (he is an accomplished Noh actor), Toranaga is able to use, manipulate, and deceive all who come in contact with him; thus, in the end, he achieves his goal.
It gets better:
He will become shogun, and, moreover (this the reader learns at the very end), it has also long been Toranaga's long-held secret plan to rid Japan of white people.
What if Gingrich is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Japanese, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together his behavior?
Republicans are sweating next year's Massachusetts Senate race, and for good reason. The latest poll, out on Wednesday from UMass–Lowell and the Boston Herald, gave Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren a seven point lead over incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown—a 10 point swing from the group's previous survey. Which sort of explains this new ad hitting the airwaves in Massachusetts, from Karl Rove's dark-money outfit, Crossroads GPS:
Notice something odd? Just a few weeks ago Rove's group released an ad chastising Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who started up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for inciting Occupy Wall Street. Now, his group has done a complete 180. Warren's no longer a radical anti-capitalist crusader; she's Wall Street's best friend (albeit a friend one banker called "the anti-Christ").
The kicker: As Michael Isikoff reported, "A substantial portion of Crossroads GPS' money came from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls." So Wall Street is attacking Warren for associating with Wall Street. Got it?
How do you know you're lagging in the polls and running out of time in Iowa? When you start cutting ads like this, accusing President Obama of waging a "war on religion":
What is this war on religion, anyway? Did Congress authorize it? How is it being paid for? If Rick Perry is a Christian and President Obama is at war with Christians, can Obama detain Perry indefinitely without trial?
Perry doesn't say. Instead, he leaves us with this: "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian. But you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." (Note: Kids are still allowed to celebrate Christmas.) This comes just one day after the Texas governor blasted President Obama for supporting human rights for gay people, warning that it was "not in America's interests." Perry has purchased $1 million worth of air time in Iowa in a last-ditch effort to turn around his campaign; he's looking pretty desperate at this point.
The GOP candidate holds up his old nonprofit, Earning by Learning, as a way to teach kids the value of a buck. Here's what he doesn't mention.
Dec. 7, 2011 7:00 AM
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 2004
For a politician who once proposed relocating children from single-parent households to orphanages, it was not all that surprising when Newt Gingrich recently declared that, if elected president, he'd ease child labor laws to allow poor kids to work as janitors.
What's notable, however, is the newly minted GOP presidential front-runner's explanation. Gingrich argues that poor children lack role models who can instill in them the value of hard work—something that, say, a part-time job cleaning bathrooms could easily remedy. Making his case to an audience in Des Moines, Iowa, last week, Gingrich touted the work of an educational nonprofit he founded in the early 1990s called Earning by Learning (EBL). The program offered cash—$2 per book—to students as an incentive to read over the summer. What he failed to mention is that his group also led to a formal ethics complaint amid concerns about not just who was funding Gingrich's program, but where that money was really going.
As Gingrich tells it, the program started that first summer in 1990 with 9 kids and ended with 30. "What happened was simple," he said. "The ice cream truck comes by. The kid who's in the program walks up and buys their own ice cream. Their friend says to them, 'How come you have money?' He goes, 'Well, I read.' So kids are showing up to the program saying, 'I demand that you let me read!'"
The point of the story is that private initiatives often succeed where government programs fail. EBL was a lean, mean, private machine. "The overhead is entirely voluntary," Gingrich said of the program in 1995. "The only money goes to the kids. So if you have $1,000 at $2 a book, you can pay for 500 books. Whereas, in the welfare state model, if you have $1,000, you pay $850 for the bureaucracy."
But that description turned out to be false. A 1995 Mother Jones investigation revealed that the program's all-volunteer army came at a hefty price. The group paid its Atlanta volunteers $500 each; nearly half of the total budget of the Houston branch of the program went to one salaried staff position.
A Wall Street Journal report earlier that year was even more damning, revealing that most of the money in the program's endowment in Georgia was being kicked back to Gingrich's friends, including Mel Steely, a former Gingrich staffer who was at the time working on an authorized biography of the House speaker. According to the paper, "90% of the $20,000 raised in the past year went to Steely and two other professors who help him evaluate the program. The children earned less than $10,000, from money leftover from prior years."
TheLos Angeles Times piled on, noting that "reading program funds were used to reimburse Steely for travel, lodging and meal expenses during three trips to attend Gingrich's Saturday morning college course." The overhead, in other words, was actually quite substantial.