Outside of his inner circle, few Americans did as much to put Barack Obama in the White House as Mark Penn. It was Penn, you may remember, mapped out then-Sen. Hillary Clinton entire campaign strategy without taking into account the small fact that convention delegates were allocated proportionately and not winner-take-all. The result was that the Clinton campaign poured most of its resources into a few big states where it barely broke even on delegates, while Obama was able to build an insurmountable delegate lead by competing everywhere else. Math!
Now Penn is back—this time with advice for President Obama in a GQ interview on how to avoid embarrassing himself next November. Among other things he believes the President should downplay one of his singular national security accomplishments—killing Osama bin Laden—and consciously refrain from undertaking similar operations:
He's already mentioning it in speeches, and he has to stop. Never ever put the Osama mission in political terms. People are going to want him to put this in ads. Don't. Everybody knows he did a great job! This was a different kind of thing for sure, but after impeachment was over, Joe Lockhart had this great phrase: 'We're in a gloat-free zone.' The president's gotta stay in a gloat-free zone...
Obviously he took the biggest risk of his presidency with the Osama operation, and it completely paid off. He was right. But watch out now for overconfidence. Don't try this again with Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban. The next risk could end up being a disaster that is very difficult to recover from. Sometimes I think Bush got into Iraq because the original Afghanistan mission seemed to go so easily—and he wound up with something that defined the rest of his presidency.
I'd love to meet the Obama voter who decides that he's going to vote for Mitt Romney instead because, back in early 2011, the President gave a few speeches in he which he mentioned the successful resolution of a 10-year man-hunt for the most universally hated man in American history. (Perhaps he's one of Penn's vaunted Micro-trend demographics?) Anyway, the whole interview is not very long, but I'll make it even shorter for you: The simplest way for President Obama to embarrass himself next November is to start asking Mark Penn for advice.
Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign manager, Ed Rollins, caused a bit of a stir when he promised that everything his candidate says on the trail will be "100-percent fact-checked." This seemed like a pretty daunting challenge; we noted at the time that the non-partisan fact-checking site PolitiFact had never fact-checked a Bachmann statement and found it to be anything but "false" or "very false"—the only major political figure for which that was the case.
Michele Bachmann said she would not support increasing the debt ceiling if it didn't include major reductions in government spending.
"I've already voted no on raising the debt ceiling in the past. And unless there are serious cuts, I can't," she said at debate June 13, 2011, in New Hampshire...
Bachmann said Obama refused to approve an increase in the debt limit when he was a senator, and that he blamed President Bush for failed leadership, as well as Bush's supporters in Congress. She's right on both counts, and we rate her statement True.
I told you last week about Texas Governor Rick Perry's plan to hold an all day prayer-and-fasting summit (called "The Response") at Houston's Reliant Stadium this August. The purpose of the event, according to Perry's office, is to summon divine assistance to lift the United States out of its doldrums. Apparently the event organizers didn't get the memo. Via Right Wing Watch, the spokesperson for The Response, Eric Bearse, told the American Family Association yesterday that the purpose of the summit is, in part, to convert non-Christians:
A lot of people want to criticize what we're doing, as if we're somehow being exclusive of other faiths. But anyone who comes to this solemn assembly regardless of their faith tradition or background, will feel the love, grace, and warmth of Jesus Christ in that assembly hall, in that arena. And that's what we want to convey, that there's acceptance and that there's love and that there's hope if people will seek out the living Christ. And that's the message we want to spread on August 6th.
They're not excluding people of other faiths! Quite the opposite: they're hoping people of other faiths show up and find Christ. There's a big difference, really. Perry has invited the governors of the 49 other states to attend his rally. So far, only one, Kansas' Sam Brownback, has said he'll be there. Given the context—it's being co-hosted by the American Family Association, which is considered by the Southern Poverty Law Center an anti-gay "hate group"—and the now-stated intent to proselytize, it's not hard to see why mainstream leaders are steering clear.
Monday's GOP presidential debate in Nashua, New Hampshire was the first to feature all of the major presidential candidates, plus Newt Gingrich, on one stage. The big revelation—well, other than Tim Pawlenty's affinity for Coca Cola—is that Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is officially running for president now. Here's the video her campaign just posted online:
That's hardly a revelation, of course—Bachmann already announced plans to begin her campaign in Waterloo, Iowa later this month. What was noteworthy was the way she did it.
As Kevin Drum notes, there was barely a trace of the Michele Bachmann who once called for an investigation into President Obama's anti-American agenda, or suggested that breast cancer would be an opportunity for singer Melissa Etheridge to quit being a lesbian. Sure, Bachmann suggested the Environmental Protection Agency be renamed "the job-killing agency of America," but when you consider her previous suggestion that sustainable development is some sort of socialist plot, that actually seems kind of tame.
Bachmann said she supported the Federal Defense of Marriage Act but wouldn't interfere in state-level same-sex marriage battles as president. She managed to hold off on dropping the kind of incendiary quotes—say, that homosexuality is a direct product of child abuse—that have been a hallmark of her political career. This was, in other words, Michele Bachmann 2.0, a less fire-breathing, more policy-oriented kind of candidate than the congresswoman that hit the tea party circuit last summer.
While we're on the subject of pizza tycoons, GOP presidential candidate and former Godfather's CEO Herman Cain was asked yesterday how he'd approach his duties as Commander in Chief if elected. Would his lack of experience and professed ignorance of foreign policy issues be a problem? It would not be a problem, Cain says. Per the Daily Caller:
Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza running for president, said he's suited to make hard foreign policy decisions because he made tough calls as a businessman.
"When I first became president of Godfather's Pizza, there was a very dangerous part of town in the black community where I wouldn't allow my restaurants to deliver because we had kids beat, robbed," he said in an interview outside a pizza joint here Sunday.
"And I said 'if I won't send my son over there, I'm not going to send someone else's son or daughter over there.' Last week in Omaha, Nebraska, that same neighborhood that I wouldn't deliver in—that they are delivering in now—a Pizza Hut driver was killed."
As it happens, many of the places American troops are deployed are places where American parents wouldn't want their kids to be. That's because the decision to enter a war zone—where the loss of human life is an assumed risk—is a lot different than the decision to deliver pizza to the wrong side of the tracks. There was a time where sending a teenager to Omaha constituted a daring military decision, but those days are thankfully over.
For Cain, meanwhile, foreign policy has quickly and predictably emerged as his most obvious weakness as a candidate. He has demonstrated (and confessed to) a lack of knowledge about the rest of the countries in the world, telling the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody last week that foreign policy is "an area that I have not focused on because when I was doing on my radio show, foreign affairs didn't come up that often in terms of what my listeners wanted." Despite making support for Israel the centerpiece of his campaign, he was not familiar with the concept of Palestinian "right of return"; despite the fact that American forces have been in Afghanistan for more than nine years, he isn't really sure what he thinks about the war there. On China, he is simultaneously blunt and ambiguous: "My China strategy is very simple: outgrow China." On Sunday, Cain alleged that President Obama was raised in Kenya, which suggests that either Cain doesn't know anything about President Obama's upbringing but is talking about it anyway, or that he thinks Hawaii is Kenya.
This wouldn't be such a big deal, except Cain believes that, more than any other living American, he is most qualified to serve as Commander in Chief. That's looking like a tough sell.