A few weeks back, Rick Perry's presidential campaign floated a daring idea: Acknowledging that debates aren't really his thing, the Texas governor would consider skipping any future GOP candidate confabs. It seemed like an act of desperation, but given his performance on stage in Michigan on Wednesday, it might have been a good idea.
Perry's shining moment, the one that will likely live on long past Perry's candidacy, came when he was asked to provide specifics on how he would fix Washington's business climate. He started strong: "When I get there there'll be three agencies I'll end: commerce, education…"
So far, so good. Except Perry's answer ended there. He grasped, visibly struggling, for the third agency on his list and couldn't come up with it. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) jumped in, helpfully, to offer that there were actually five agencies that should be abolished, and mentioned the EPA. Perry thought that sounded right, but then reconsidered, noting that he was pretty sure he thought the EPA should be rebuilt, not abolished.
CNBC's John Harwood asked Perry to clarify. Could he name the third agency he'd abolish?
"No," Perry said. Long pause. "Oops."
The answer, it turns out, is "Energy." Leave your jokes in the comments.
During the CNBC debate, "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer asked the candidates if they believe corporations have a social obligation to create jobs, or if—citing Milton Friedman—corporations exist solely to produce returns for shareholders.
Mitt Romney responded to what he called "an interesting philosophical" question by stating that "you don't have to decide between the two [because] they go together!" That may be all well and good (well, maybenotquite…), but his response jumped the shark right after he embraced the popular conservative talking point about how Democrats "think when corporations are profitable, it's a bad thing."
Romney went on to lambaste President Obama's alleged attitude toward corporate profits, insisting that "we have a president and an administration that doesn't like business…I like jobs!"
The "Obama wants to murder your business" meme is wholly self-discrediting. In the real world, Barack Obama hates rich businessmen so much that he oversaw the staggering resurgence of Wall Street's prosperity. He is so against big business that his administration pushed the government intervention that preserved America's auto giants. And he is so hostile towards the financial sector that his 2012 campaign has raked in more money from its employees than all of the Republican candidates combined.
During Tuesday night's Republican debate on CNBC, Herman Cain referred to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as "Princess Nancy" while criticizing her for killing a Republican health care proposal when Democrats were in control of Congress. The GOP debate audience laughed and applauded.
In a brief post-debate interview, in response to a question from CNBC anchor Carl Quintanilla, Cain walked back his "Princess Nancy" remark saying, "That is a statement I probably should not have made." His campaign however, was proud enough of the line that they repeated it on his official Twitter feed:
The speaker of the House is second in line for the presidency of the United States, should the president and vice president become incapacitated.
At Wednesday night's GOP presidential debate in Michigan, Newt Gingrich was asked by the mostly on-the-ball CNBC panel about his work on behalf of housing giant Freddie Mac. For the former speaker of the House, it was a bit of a welcome-back moment; for the last few months, he's been so much of an afterthought that moderators haven't even bothered with his own personal history and résumé.
But Gingrich had an answer ready. He denied the lobbying charge, and then, via Benjy Sarlin, offered this spirited defense:
I offered advice. My advice as an historian when they walked in and said we are now making loans to people that have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything but that's what the government wants us to do. I said at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible. It turned out unfortunately I was right and the people who were doing exactly what Congresswoman Bachmann talked about were wrong.
It's pretty self-evident, though, that Gingrich wasn't hired as a consultant because he was an untenured history professor at North Georgia College in the late 1970s. He was hired because, as a former speaker of the House, he had a lot of influence with a lot of imporant people. An AP investigative report from 2008 framed Gingrich's role as that of a political operator, greasing the wheels on Capitol Hill. Key section:
Efforts to tighten government regulation were gaining support on Capitol Hill, and Freddie Mac was fighting back.
According to internal Freddie Mac documents obtained by the AP, Reps. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), and Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) spent the evening in hard-to-obtain seats near the Nationals dugout with Freddie Mac executive Hollis McLoughlin and four of Freddie Mac's in-house lobbyists. Both were members of the House Financial Services Committee. The Nationals tickets were bargains for Freddie Mac, part of a well-orchestrated, multimillion-dollar campaign to preserve its largely regulatory-free environment, with particular pressure exerted on Republicans who controlled Congress at the time.
Internal Freddie Mac budget records show $11.7 million was paid to 52 outside lobbyists and consultants in 2006. Power brokers such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were recruited with six-figure contracts. Freddie Mac paid the following amounts to the firms of former Republican lawmakers or ex-GOP staffers in 2006…
Pushing back, Freddie Mac enlisted prominent conservatives, including Gingrich and former Justice Department official Viet Dinh, paying each $300,000 in 2006, according to internal records.
Gingrich talked and wrote about what he saw as the benefits of the Freddie Mac business model.
Gingrich made a pretty penny as a consultant in the 2000s. As CPI reported, the former Speaker's consulting firm took in $312,000 from the ethanol lobby in 2009. Presumably, they weren't paying him for his historical insights.
Hong Kong beats the United States, but mainland China—that bugaboo of American employment protectionists—does not. Instead, China comes in 91st. Despite the higher regulatory burden, American-based multinational companies have increased their employment in China by 161,400 from 2007 to 2008, a gain of about 20 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. (The most recent data are for 2008.) In fact, American employment in China rose 77 percent in the prior decade, from 1998 to 2008.
India does even worse, with a ranking of 132nd…
As they have done in China, American companies have ratcheted up their employment in India by 43,000, or about 13 percent, from 2007 to 2008. From 1998 to 2008, the number of people in India working for American companies rose by 54 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
In another measure of business climate and competitiveness put out by the World Economic Forum, the United States ranks fifth, again ahead of China (26), India (56) and a host of other countries where American companies are adding jobs.
Presumably, then, American companies are not attracted to these places because the business climate is more favorable.
The audience at Tuesday's Republican debate booed CNBC's Maria Bartiromo when she asked Herman Cain about the sexual harassment allegations dogging his campaign.
Cain, for his part, tried to blame the media for focusing on "unfounded accusations." (There were at least two instances of sexual harassment allegations that lead to financial settlements for the alleged victims while Cain was head of the National Restaurant Association, so it's not accurate to call the reports "unfounded.")
Cain went on to offer a rather strange defense, saying, "For every one person that comes forward with a false accusation, there are probably thousands who will say that none of that sort of activity ever came from Herman Cain."
While having the majority of women you've met not accuse you of sexual harassment might seem like a low bar for a human being, let alone a presidential candidate, the debate audience cheered enthusiastically.
At Wednesday's CNBC debate, Gov. Rick Perry said government should get out of the way and "let consumers pick winners and losers."
Too bad his economic record doesn't reflect that, even remotely. Through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF), Perry's office handed out huge tax breaks and grant packages to lure companies to move their operations to Texas—i.e., picking winners and losers, and none too well, according to a new report from Texans for Public Justice reviewed by Good Jobs First:
A summary that Governor Perry's office published in August suggests that $440 million in taxpayer TEF grants have created 59,600 Texas jobs. Perry claimed in an October presidential debate that TEF has produced 54,600 jobs. Putting aside five TEF projects that TPJ asserts are fraudulent job claims and a sixth project that appears to be undergoing an audit, TPJ found evidence that TEF had created 22,349 jobs by the end of 2010. That number amounts to 37 percent of the job claims made by the Governor’s Office.
Analyzing the 65 TEF projects, the new report found that:
24 projects (37 percent) failed to deliver on their original 2010 job promises;
17 projects (26 percent) complied with their 2010 job commitments;
11 failing projects were terminated prematurely (17 percent);
7 projects are troubled (11 percent), usually because they defaulted on 2010 job pledges but covered the shortfall with job credits earned by exceeding their job targets in past years;
5 projects (8 percent) were found by TPJ to fraudulently claim that they created more jobs than they actually did (this category includes most of TEF’s largest grants); and
One project claimed "new" jobs that had hiring dates predating its TEF contract.
The most pressing economic issue currently facing the world, as my colleague Kevin Drum pointed out on Wednesday morning, is the ongoing collapse of the Italian economy. With CNBC's presidential debate set to focus on jobs, it was an obvious question—and it came immediately after the candidate introductions.
So were the GOP candidates ready for it? Well, not exactly. Asked point-blank what he would do as president during such a crisis, Herman Cain's first answer was a bizarre non sequitur. His response, he said, would be to…create jobs. Pressed by the host, Maria Bartiromo, as to how specifically he would react as president to the Italian crisis, he punted. "There's not a lot the US can do for Italy right now," he said. "They've gone beyond the point where we can help them." (That's news to Europe.)
It's an odd answer not just because Cain has had three weeks to prepare for the debate, but because his biggest liability—other than that whole harassment thing—is that he never offers any specifics about anything. Italy would have been a good chance to demonstrate that, if nothing else, he read the newspaper this morning.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney didn't get much more specific in his answer to the question, stating that America's best choice was to let Italy fail.
On Wednesday, the eight GOP presidential candidates will gather at Michigan's Oakland University for a debate about jobs. CNBC's John Harwood and Maria Bartiromo will moderate the debate, which makes a good deal of sense, because the event is being sponsored by CNBC. But then Mike Allen drops this bomb: "Jim Cramer, Steve Liesman, Rick Santelli and Sharon Epperson will join in the questioning."
Rick Santelli? Rick Santelli!? Are you kidding me? The Rick Santelli who helped kick off the first round of tea parties by referring to Americans with underwater mortgages as "losers"?
Yes, that Rick Santelli. This Rick Santelli:
Santelli didn't seem to understand that many homeowners, rather than destroying the economy through their recklessnes, had actually been preyed upon—by banks, by lawyers, by guys like Florida foreclosure baron David J. Stern. Or perhaps he didn't really care. Either way, it made for pretty good television, and the charges have stuck. If you're looking for compassion from the candidates on stage tonight, you should probably reconsider. The event is likely to be dominated by Mitt Romney (who has called for the federal government to let foreclosures "hit the bottom") and Herman Cain (who said the unemployed only have themselves to blame.) Jim Cramer, the Mad Money host whose total blindness of the financial crisis—even as it was ongoing—led to this evisceration by Jon Stewart, will also be asking questions of the candidates.
Santelli's a terrible panelist for a rational, sober debate about economic policy and job creation. But luckily for him, that's not what the CNBC debate is supposed to be. As Media Matters notes, the network has advertised the event by airing an ad that asks, "How will candidates end the war on wealth?"
I told Marian I'd take her out to dinner tonight, so that's what I'm going to do. That means no debate wrap-up from me—which, frankly, is no great loss since tonight's debate has been pretty dull so far. In place of serious commentary, then, here are my debate-related tweets from tonight. Enjoy.
5:01: I guess Michael Bay style intros are the new normal for Republican debates.
5:04: Hate to admit it, but Jim Cramer is sort of the perfect questioner for one of these spectacles.
5:14: Perry's solution for Italy: they're too big, must be broken up.
Tuesday night's state and local elections didn't carry quite the same punch as the midterms of 2010, but with two governorships, a handful of state legislatures, and two hot-button ballot initiatives on the line, it offered a quick temperature check on how the nation's doing. As it turns out, things could have gone a lot worse. So if you went to bed early, here's what you missed:
Ohio: Voters overwhelmingly rejected Republican Gov. John Kasich's controversial union-busting law, which would have severely curtailed collective bargaining rights in the state. More Ohioans voted to repeal Kasich's signature piece of legislation than voted for Kasich last November. It was a big win for progressives, but as Andy Kroll reports, don't put Ohio in the blue column for 2012 just yet.
Mississippi: Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant upgraded his seat to "Governor" with victory over Democrat Johnny DuPree, but the big story here was the surprisingly easy defeat of Question 26—a constitutional amendment to redefine zygotes as people. Supporters of the measure, which would have banned abortion even in cases of rape and affected everything from in vitro fertilization to fire codes, made their final pitch to voters by distributing a graphic film comparing reproductive rights to the Holocaust. (On Monday, Bryant told a woman who had been raped that if Question 26 fails, "Satan wins." So make of that what you will.) In a win for Reublicans, a constitutional amendment to require state-issued identification to vote also passed.
Arizona: GOPer Russell Pearce became the first sitting Senate president ever to lose a recall election—to fellow Republican Jerry Lewis (not that Jerry Lewis). Why should you care? Pearce was the architect of Arizona's SB 1070 immigration law, which he drafted at the behest of private prison lobbyists. Democrats won mayoral races in Tucson and Phoenix, and in a feel-good story, Daniel Hernandez, a hero of the Gabby Giffords shooting, was elected to his local school board for the Sunnyside Unified School District.
Kentucky: Democrats won five of six statewide contests, including the governor's race, where incumbent Steve Beshear easily handled GOP challenger David Williams. This was noteworthy only because Williams spent the final days of the race accusing Beshear of "idolatry" for attending a Hindu prayer ceremony. So what lessons can Obama take from Beshear's success? None, really. Beshear's a very conservative Democrat who recently secured $43 million in tax credits to build a replica of Noah's Ark.
Maine: Another item for the "GOP overreach" narrative. Voters approved Question 1, which restored a law allowing citizens to register to vote on election day. The same-day registration law had been repealed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage and the GOP-led Legislature.
Iowa: Good news for gay marriage supporters. Democrats won a special election for a vacant state Senate seat, thereby retaining control of the upper chamber and dashing the hopes of social conservatives who'd hoped they'd finally have to votes to ban gay marriage. It cost a pretty penny, though; the Des Moines Register estimated that the two sides combined to spend a Wisconsinesque $1 million in the special election.
Massachusetts: Via our friends at Unicorn Booty, Holyoke elected its first gay mayor, 22-year-old Alex Morse.
San Francisco: Interim Mayor Ed Lee came one step closer to becoming the first Asian American to win a mayoral election in the city. Lee was the beneficiary of the most original ad of the 2011 cycle, which featured MC Hammer, will.i.am, Giants pitcher Brian Wilson, and three apparently very stoned voters:
Arizona sheriff Paul Babeu recorded robo-calls for the GOP front-runner in Iowa. In 2010, he appeared on a radio program that watchdog groups say is "overtly racist."
Tim MurphyNov. 9, 2011 7:00 AM
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney (right) and Sheriff Paul Babeu.
When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney deployed his first robo-calls in Iowa last week, he went straight for the soft underbelly of his most serious rival. "Rick Perry is opposing a border fence and granting in-state tuition benefits to illegal immigrants," the caller said. "Rick Perry is part of the illegal immigration problem."
The voice belonged to Paul Babeu, the sheriff of Arizona's Pinal County and a possible Republican congressional candidate. As Romney looks to ding Perry for being insufficiently tough on undocumented immigrants, the support of such a high-profile law enforcement official could be a valuable asset—especially given the former Massachusetts governor's own wobbly history on the topic. But Babeu comes with some serious baggage. Over the last two years, the federal government and local politicians have repeatedly chided Babeu for making sensationalist, unsubstantiated allegations about border violence. Babeu has called President Obama "the enemy" and said the president has come close to committing treason through his immigration policies. He has also come under criticism by for appearing on a white nationalist talk radio program that's been a frequent platform for white supremacists.
Texas governor Rick Perry, currently polling at 4 percent in Iowa, has been spared some of his usual bad news of late because of the continuing meltdown of fellow presidential candidate Herman Cain. But Mary Tuma flags a damning new report from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that suggests Perry's State Board of Education has left high schoolers in the state unprepared for the rigors of college. The report slams the SBOE's history standards for, among other things, glossing over the true causes of the Civil War. Key quote:
Over the course of eight months, the lawyers and realtors and dentist on the board made hundreds of changes to the standards. As the politicians squabbled over the politics of who should be in or out, they tacitly adopted a bi-partisan agreement to ignore principles of sound pedagogy. In 2011 the Fordham Institute awarded the 2010 TEKS an overall grade of D, characterizing them as "a politicized distortion of history" that is "both unwieldy and troubling" while "offering misrepresentations and every turn." As the process drew to a close, state board of education chairwoman Gail Lowe admitted that the board had failed to follow up on the college readiness effort.
The "dentist" line is a reference to Don McLeroy, whom Perry twice appointed to serve as chair of the SBOE (which is tasked with devising textbook standards). McLeroy believes "evolution is hooey," and that the Earth is just a few thousand years old—views he sought to incorporate into the state science curriculum.
Given his own financial difficulties, should Mark Block really be trusted?
Herman Cain's first response to Tuesday's allegation of sexual assault from a former National Restaurant Association employee was to blame the media for distracting America's attention from his 9-9-9 tax plan. Within a few hours, he'd apparently reconsidered this tactic, and tried a new one: The accuser, Sharon Bialek, can't be trusted because she went broke a couple times. As spokesman J.D. Gordon argued in a statement, "his opponents convinced a woman with a long history of financial difficulties, including personal bankruptcy, to falsely accuse the Republican frontrunner of events occurring over a decade ago for which there is no record, nor was there ever even a complaint filed."
If Gordon has any evidence that any of Cain's opponents were behind anything that's happened in the last week—and Bialek's allegations specifically—he hasn't managed to produce it. But more absurd is the implication that Bialek shouldn't be trusted simply because she's had a shaky financial history. (The New York Post's Andrea Peyser, taking Gordon's statement to its logical conclusion, called Bialek a "gold digger" on Tuesday.)
Ignoring the fact that most of the two million Americans who file for person bankruptcy each year aren't compelled, as a consequence, to then make unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault, the "broke people can't be trusted" card is an odd one for Cain to play given the individuals he happens to surround himself with. For instance, here's a sentence I pulled totally at random from an Associated Press story about Herman Cain's chief of staff, Mark Block: "Records show Block has faced foreclosure on his home, a tax warrant by the Internal Revenue Service and a lawsuit for an unpaid bill. He also acknowledges he was arrested twice for drunken driving." The story also mentions that after dropping out of politics, Block went broke and was forced to stock shelves at Target.
Given Block's long history of financial difficulties, including racking up $62,000 in debt with his non-profit, going broke, receiving a tax warrant from the IRS, and foreclosure scare, can we really trust him to tell the truth to the American people?
(Alternatively, perhaps nitpicking over Bialek's personal finances is a total non-sequitur. Just throwing that out there.)