Mojo - January 2012

Your Daily Newt: The Germans Have a Word for It

| Mon Jan. 9, 2012 12:47 PM EST
"GINGRICH CRUSH!"

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.

Newt Gingrich hates bureaucracies. He loathes them, really—wants to watch 'em burn and see them replaced with a "conservative opportunity society" in which the government gets out of the way to allow private businesses to (for example) extract minerals from the moon. But there's one European bureaucracy Gingrich believes the United States could learn from: The German military, which the Georgia firebrand used as a model for how to manage the House Republican caucus. As Vanity Fair reported in 1994:

Gingrich's pal Stephen Hanser says that part of Newt's strategy in the House is based on combat theory, namely the German armed-forces doctrine of Auftragstaktik, or "mission orders." The problem is that in the heat of battle subtleties are lost. Standards fall. Atrocities are forgiven. Especially if the action is rapid-fire.

Connie Bruck offered some more context in the New Yorker:

Since his earliest years in Congress (he was first elected in 1978) he has lived by what he calls a "planning model"—which entails vision, strategies, projects, tactics. It is adapted from the German military model, having been introduced to Gingrich in the mid-seventies by his close friend and advisor Steven Hanser, who was a fellow history professor at West Georgia College and is a specialist on the Wehrmacht (the German armed forces).

Gingrich's love for the German language wasn't just a passing phase. In blurbing Rep. Steve Israel's 2007 collection of military speeches, Charge!, Gingrich wrote: "Steve Israel possesses that rare quality that the nineteenth-century German Army called 'fingerspitzengefuhl," which he defined as "a fingertip sense for the art of war."

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Santorum's "Love" For His Hypothetical Gay Son

| Mon Jan. 9, 2012 12:34 PM EST
Rick Santorum speaking in Florida in 2011.

During Sunday's GOP Primary debate, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum had a nice little moment when he said that if his son were gay, "I would love him as much as I did the second before he said it. And I would try to do everything I can to be as good of a father to him as possible."

As I wrote Sunday, the nature of the question allowed Santorum to avoid the legal implications of his views on homosexuality while putting forth a load of schmaltz about "loving" gay people. Santorum might "love" his gay son, but he'd also want him banned from serving openly in the military, getting married, or adopting children. As Reason's Jacob Sullum notes today, in the infamous 2004 "man on dog" interview Santorum also indicated he'd favor criminalizing sexual activity he disapproves of:

If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does...You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family...The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire.

So Santorum also thinks that his hypothetical gay son, whom he'd love so dearly, should also face legal consequences if he ever consummates a relationship with someone he's actually attracted to. He'd want him to live a life of chaste loneliness, ostracized from whatever opportunities government might decide are inappropriate for gay men to pursue and incapable of building the kind of family he'd want to have. But Santorum would still, you know, "love" him.

Mitt Romney: "I Like Being Able to Fire People Who Provide Services to Me"

| Mon Jan. 9, 2012 10:49 AM EST
Mitt Romney.

As he faces attacks from all sides for his years at private equity firm Bain Capital, Mitt Romney might regret a line he uttered in Nashua on Monday morning.

The day before New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary, Romney, the front-runner, spoke for nearly 45 minutes at a breakfast discussion organized by the local chamber of commerce and attended by local businessmen, businesswomen, and journalists. Afterward, he took questions from the audience, including one on how he would fix America's health-care system as president after repealing President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Here's Romney's full reply (emphasis mine):

"I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also mean that if you don't like what they do, you could fire them. I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. You know, if someone isn't giving the good service, I want to say, 'I'm going to get someone else to provide this service too.'"

Now, Romney's "I like being able to fire people" comment needs to be placed in the context of his response to the local businessman's question. Still, it's exactly the kind of soundbite to end up in a Democratic attack ad in three or four months if Romney wins the GOP presidential nomination.

The quote couldn't come at a worse time for Romney, whose opponents are ramping up their attacks on his work at Bain Capital. A pro-Newt Gingrich super-PAC, Winning Our Future, has created a 27-minute video purports to highlight the "corporate raider" nature of Bain's business model. The super-PAC told the New York Times it will spend $3.4 million on ads in South Carolina, the site of the next primary. Some of that money will surely be spent on ads attacking Romney and his business record. (Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson recently cut a $5 million check to Winning Our Future, so the group can afford a big ad buy.)

The full context makes Romney's "fire people" quote seem less controversial. But that won't stop Republicans, Democrats, and political front groups from making use of it. Thirty-second political ads aren't known for their ability to put quotes in their proper context.

Elizabeth Warren Stands Outside Fenway, in the Cold, Shaking Hands

| Mon Jan. 9, 2012 10:13 AM EST

A little more than two years ago to the day, while locked in a tight race with Republican Scott Brown for the vacant Massachusetts Senate seat, Martha Coakley, the state attorney general, offered up the quote that no number of foreclosure fraud lawsuits will be able to wipe from her obituary. Asked about her hands-off campaign style, she pushed back: "As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?"

On Saturday, Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat who's challenging Brown in November, tweeted this photo:

Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (D) shaking hands at Fenway Park.: @ElizabethforMAMassachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren shaking hands at Fenway Park. @ElizabethforMAThat's Elizabeth Warren shaking hands in the cold, at Fenway Park, during a college hockey doubleheader. (Here she is standing outside Fenway, for you sticklers.)

As for Warren's campaign, the most recent survey of the race, from the Boston Herald, gave her a seven-point lead over the incumbent. And Brown appears to be feeling the heat. Last Monday, after Obama announced he'd appointed former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to chair the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—crafted by Warren—Brown broke with his party to endorse the move: "I support President Obama's appointment today of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB. I believe he is the right person to lead the agency and help protect consumers from fraud and scams."

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 9, 2012

Mon Jan. 9, 2012 5:57 AM EST

US Army Spc. Kimberly Nicholls, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade mans her M240 Bravo machine gun during sunset while flying over Logar province, Afghanistan on December 8, 2011. Photo by the US Army.

Jon Huntsman: We Need a "Grateful Dead Tour" to Save America

| Sun Jan. 8, 2012 2:09 PM EST

Jon Huntsman is known almost as much for his frequent popular culture references—Nirvana, Wayne's World, Led Zeppelin—as he is for his policy prescriptions. On Sunday afternoon in Hampstead, clad in a brown leather bomber jacket and cowboy boots, Huntsman (who once played keyboards in a prog rock band called Wizard) outdid himself once again in the band name-dropping department.

At 1:35 p.m., Huntsman climbed atop a table in the BeanTowne coffee shop and greeted the throngs of supporters and reporters who'd flock to see him speak. Huntsman launched into his familiar American revival speech, but then veered into hippie territory, saying that what the US needs is a candidate "who's going to lead a Grateful Dead tour of this country" to make it a better place for the next generation of Americans. Here's his full quote:

The next generation deserves trust in government. We have no trust left. The next generation deserves a Congress with term limits. We need a candidate who's going to lead a Grateful Dead tour of this country, who rallies the support of the American people in getting term limits and closing the revolving door of lobbyists.

But I need your help. It's all about the next generations folks.

Here's the audio:

Jon Huntsman"s "Grateful Dead" Revival Tour (mp3)

A Grateful Dead tour to restore America? The quip earned plenty of laughs from the crowd, not to mention a few quizzical, "Did he just say that?" looks. This latest nugget of culture comes as Huntsman ticks upward in polling here in New Hampshire. A new American Research Group poll released Saturday shows Huntsman in second place with 17 percent, trailing Mitt Romney who has a commanding lead with 40 percent. Huntsman also made a strong showing at Sunday morning's NBC News/Facebook debate; the Daily Beast called it Huntsman's finest debate appearance so far in the campaign. But the question is: Are pop culture references and strong debate performances enough to solidify Huntsman's support in time for Tuesday's primary?

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Dear Newt: There Is No EPA War On Dust

| Sun Jan. 8, 2012 11:42 AM EST
2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

During Sunday morning's NBC News/Facebook debate in Concord, New Hampshire, former Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich picked a fight with a familiar boogeyman—the Environmental Protection Agency. The fact that the EPA is a prime target for the 2012 GOP field is no real surprise, but Gingrich has zeroed in on a particularly obscure subject: The EPA's "dust regulation."

Gingrich scored some laughs from the audience on Sunday by knocking the inanities of the EPA's effort to regulate dust. It is "an absurdity" that a government agency should be so uptight about dust in Iowa, the former House speaker said, as he explained how the regulation would hurt the families and workers of the Hawkeye State.

This issue has been in Gingrich's sights for some time. In Atlantic, Iowa before the state's caucuses last week, he slammed the EPA as a "job-killing dictatorial bureaucracy" and invoked the name of one of Iowa's top Republicans to make his case against the big-government War on Dust:

Many of you have probably followed Sen. [Chuck] Grassley's fight for the dust regulations...The EPA technically has the ability to regulate 'particulate matter,' as part of the Clean Air Bill, which I don't think any congressman thought of as 'dust.' But of course it's now interpreted to include dust. If you were to plow on a windy day, and some of the dirt was carried by the wind into your neighbor's field, you would be polluting your neighbor's field with your dirt. Now, since your neighbor's field is exactly the same geologic dirt as your field, it's implausible that you would actually be hurting it.

At least he's been consistent on this. Too bad what was wrong then is still wrong now. The heart of the EPA-is-out-to-micromanage-America's-dust hysteria is based almost entirely on a poor interpretation of language and law. The Des Moines Register did their share of debunking on the matter, and my colleague Tim Murphy did the same:

[T]he EPA does not regulate dust as we might think of it, at least not the kind of dust you'd laugh at if a candidate brought it up in a speech. Instead, they go after "particulate matter," which, although it just sounds like a euphemism for dust, is actually a euphemism for "things that will produce uneconomic health and environmental effects if you breathe too much of them." Soot would be the best example (and incidentally, something the EPA has been pretty lax about), or coal dust. Contra Gingrich's assertion that the agency had taken the initiative to looking into regulating dirt, the EPA was required by law to review its standards on particulate matter to make sure that it was keeping up with the science. That was interpreted by the agriculture industry as a sign that new regulations were imminent, but EPA chief Lisa Jackson told Congress she had "no plans" to regulate dust, and, sure enough, no new regulations were issued.

For Gingrich, denouncing the EPA's alleged jihad on dust and dirt might be an easy applause line, like, say, threatening to purge federal courts. But that's really all it is.

The GOP Debate's Gay Rights Softballs

| Sun Jan. 8, 2012 11:16 AM EST
GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

Sunday morning's Republican debate took a turn for the sentimental and pointless when the topic turned to the candidates' stances on gay rights. 

Moderator Andy Hiller asked Mitt Romney how he's stood up for gay rights and how he'd try to influence the GOP to support such rights. Later, Rick Santorum was asked how he would react if he had a son who came out to him as gay. 

The questions were sufficiently devoid of any specific matters of gay rights that they allowed both candidates to garner applause lines. Romney said that while he opposes same-sex marriage, "if people are looking for someone who will discriminate against gays, or will in any way try and suggest that people [who] have different sexual orientation don't have full rights in this country, they won't find that in me."

"When was the last time you spoke out for increasing gay rights?" Hiller asked. 

"Right now," Romney said to laughter and applause.

Hiller followed up by asking whether Santorum would be a "force for gay rights in his party." Santorum said he was opposed gay couples being able to adopt or get married. "Just because you don't agree with someone's desire to change the law doesn't mean you don't like them, or you hate them, or you want to discriminate against them," Santorum said after declaring his support for laws that discriminate against gay people. 

"What if you had a son who came up to you and said he was gay?" Hiller asked.

"I would love him as much as I did the second before he said it. And I would try to do everything I can to be as good of a father to him as possible."

It was perhaps Santorum's finest moment in the debate—he didn't flinch, or wait a moment to reflect. He came across as entirely sincere. And that's part of the problem. In both cases, the Republican candidates were asked questions that were essentially about whether or not they "hated" gays. Those questions are easy to deflect with a measured tone. Instead of asking the candidates about their feelings towards gay people, they could have been asked about any one of the many pending legal issues affecting the rights of gays and lesbians. Do the candidates support ending the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy? Would they support extending the same military benefits heterosexual couples have to same-sex families? Do they think gay couples should be able to adopt (Santorum, to his credit, explicitly said no.) Do they think Lawrence v. Texas was rightly decided or do they think states should be allowed to criminalize sexual behavior by consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes? Do they support or oppose the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages?

Many of the candidates are on record on these issues, and an informed moderator might have asked the candidates to explain their positions, since Republican stances on gay rights issues typically clash with their stated principles on federalism or individual rights. Instead, the Republican candidates got softballs about how they feel about gay people, which allowed them grin and prattle on about tolerance and equality, even while supporting laws that deny gays and lesbians the same rights as everyone else. Grading on this bizarre curve, Santorum gets applause for not casting a hypothetical gay son out of his home as though basic human decency would demand anything else. Santorum wouldn't cast out his gay son: He just wouldn't let him serve in the military, get married, or adopt a child.

It must be said, however, that part of the reason that Republicans can get away with saying they're against discriminating against gays and lesbians while supporting laws that do so, is that President Barack Obama continues to oppose marriage equality. With few Democrats willing to attack the president for supporting this position, Republicans can safely argue that denying gay spouses the same rights and benefits as heterosexual ones is not "discrimination," with little pushback from their political rivals.

*This post has been edited. 

Newt Gingrich Flashes Fangs

| Sun Jan. 8, 2012 10:56 AM EST
Newt Gingrich.

Perhaps it's lack of sleep, or perhaps he realized that his above-the-fray strategy was failing to dampen Mitt Romney's aura of inevitability in New Hampshire, but Newt Gingrich flashed his fangs early in Sunday's NBC News/Facebook debate. After Romney exceeded his allotted time, emphasizing—as he has throughout the campaign—that he is not a career politician but a businessman whose conscience called him to service, Gingrich erupted: "I realize the red light doesn't mean anything to you because you're the front-runner. But can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney?"

The fact is you had a very bad re-election rating. You dropped out of office. You had been out of state for something like 200 days preparing to run for president... You were running for president while you were governor. You were gone all over the country. You were out of state consistently.

You then promptly re-entered politics. You happened to lose to McCain as you had lost to Kennedy. Now you're back running. You've been running consistently for years and years and years. So this idea that suddenly citizenship showed up in your mind, just level with the American people. You've been running for—so at least since the 1990s.

Then, after coming out strong and showing a glimpse of classic, brawling Gingrich, the former House speaker reverted to his positive, professorial pose.

Since placing fourth in Iowa in the wake of a slew of attack ads launched by a pro-Romney super-PAC, Restore Our Future, Gingrich has vowed he would not go negative. He has vowed, however, to "engage in great clarity," as he put it the other day during a town hall meeting in Salem.

But while Gingrich may be reluctant to put his pugilistic side on full display, now, thanks to Sheldon Adelson, he may be able to leave most of the body blows to his surrogates. News broke on Saturday that the casino mogul had donated $5 million to a pro-Gingrich super-PAC, Winning Our Future, run by former Gingrich aide Rick Tyler. Winning Our Future is planning to roll out a blistering, 27-minute movie eviscerating Romney's record at Bain Capital. "I'm trying to save the people of New Hampshire from being embarrassed," Tyler told NBC. "When they see this movie, and see what a predator Romney is, they're going to be embarrassed."

Near the end of the debate, moderator David Gregory raised the escalating super-PAC wars, asking Gingrich whether his complaints about Restore Our Future's Iowa ads weren't hypocritical given the movie produced by the super-PAC backing his own candidacy. "I'm consistent because I think you ought to have fact-based campaigns," Gingrich responded.

Romney defended the ads launched by Restore Our Future, which is run by former Romney campaign staffers. He added, however, "Anything wrong I'm opposed to."

Gregory pointedly asked the candidates whether they would both ask their respective super-PACs to cease the attacks. Predictably, neither Gingrich nor Romney signaled that they would call for a super-PAC detente. "I agree with him: it takes broad shoulders to run," Gingrich remarked, referring to Romney's recent comments criticizing Gingrich for "whining" about the super-PAC onslaught.

So at least they agree on something.

Romney Flip-Flops on Blaming Obama for Jobs Crisis

| Sun Jan. 8, 2012 10:44 AM EST
Mitt Romney.

Add another entry to the long-running list of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's flip-flops. At Sunday's NBC/Facebook debate in Concord, Romney took a question about the nation's woeful labor market and his criticism of President Obama's economic plan. Romney tempered his attacks on Obama by noting, "I don't blame him for the recession and the jobs crisis."

But in his campaign's 87-page economic plan, Romney does just that. If you look closely at Romney's depiction of the Great Recession and ensuing, lingering jobs crisis, he blames Obama for the nation's jobs crisis. Released in September 2011, Romney's plan highlights a period from 2007 to 2009, showing how during this period 8.7 million jobs were lost in the Great Recession and another 800,000 were shed in the immediate aftermath of the recession. Amazingly, Romney's economic plan calls this period the "Obama Recovery." Here's the graph to prove it:

Mitt Romney campaign.Mitt Romney campaign.

It's chart fraud at its finest. The years 2007 and 2008, of course, were the final two of the Bush administration. The jobs crisis was at its worst during those years, including a staggering 2.6 million jobs lost in 2008. And those years have nothing to do with the "Obama recovery."

Nor was this Romney's only misrepresentation of Obama's jobs record. As Tim Murphy noted, Romney falsely claimed he created more jobs as governor of Massachusetts in the 2000s than Obama has as president. In reality, Romney used the same bogus math to make this claim as he did when blaming the the nation's unemployment woes on Obama.