Mojo - June 2012

Bill Clinton: Scott Walker's "Divide And Conquer" Strategy Is Un-American

| Fri Jun. 1, 2012 2:19 PM EDT
Bill Clinton, left, and Tom Barrett at a rally in Milwaukee on June 1, 2012.

Former President Bill Clinton whipped a crowd of thousands into a frenzy Friday morning at a rally in downtown Milwaukee to support Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the challenger hoping to defeat Gov. Scott Walker in next week's recall election.

Clinton hailed Barrett's record on job creation in Milwaukee and his willingness to negotiate with unions, Republicans, and other stakeholders on tough financial decisions. The former president devoted even more of his 18-minute speech to slamming Walker, now 17 months into his first term as governor, for dividing Wisconsinites and sowing a climate of "constant conflict." Clinton went so far as to paint Walker's us-versus-them politics as contrary to the American spirit. "This divide-and-conquer, no-compromise crowd, if they had been in control, there never would have been a US Constitution," he said.

Clinton's visit was a last-minute addition to the slate of get-out-the-vote events by Democrats and Republicans on the eve of the June 5 recall. The event featured speeches from Mahlon Mitchell, the Democrats' candidate in the lieutenant gubernatorial recall, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Wisconsin Democratic Party chief Mike Tate, and Barrett himself.

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Americans for Prosperity vs. Metrorail

| Fri Jun. 1, 2012 12:42 PM EDT
A Metrorail train arriving at the Naylor Road Station platform.

What is it with conservatives and trains? They hate Amtrak; they hate light rail; and now, apparently, they are even opposed to subways that are one of the few solutions to permanent traffic gridlock in the nation's most populated cities. The latest: Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group that is partly funded by Koch brothers, is currently funding a campaign in Virginia to try to kill off an expansion of the Washington Metrorail system from Reston, Virginia, to the Dulles Airport and into Loudoun County, areas around DC that are choked with traffic.

AFP is sponsoring robo-calls to area residents urging them to contact their local officials and lobby them to fight off the subway project, which they oppose because of potential tax increases associated with the project. According to the Washington Post, the recorded calls tell voters:

Loudoun cannot afford this bail-out to rail-station developers. If the Loudoun County board opts out, the rail will still be built to Dulles Airport, and commuters will still be within five miles of Metro. Come tell the board of supervisors to opt out and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

If the Metrorail expansion doesn't take place, the wealthy Virginia county will be doomed to a long future of horrible traffic conditions, which are already bad—so bad that it helps keep the Washington metro area at the top of the charts in studies of the nation's worst commutes and creates miserable air quality. Studies show that Loudoun County would also miss out on a tremendous amount of economic development expected to accompany the new rail stations (lots of people have already paid a premium to buy houses within walking distance of the new stations). The county could reap nearly $400 million in new tax revenue from the project, too. It's basically a no-brainer. But conservative activists seem dead-set on ensuring that the county's traffic remains as gridlocked as Washington politics.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 1, 2012

Fri Jun. 1, 2012 9:46 AM EDT

A US soldier stays low in the grass after dismounting a Stryker armored vehicle during a blank live fire exercise at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, May 24, 2012. US Army photo by Gertrud Zach.

Real Talk: Mitt Romney is Actually Pretty Conservative

| Fri Jun. 1, 2012 9:23 AM EDT
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks at Solyndra's Fremont, Calif. headquarters.

McKay Coppins had a good piece at Buzzfeed on Friday looking at the contrasting styles of Mitt Romney and John McCain. The short of it is that the conservative base was always suspicious of McCain, and he encouraged their fears by failing to show sufficient "grit." Romney, as demonstrated by his campaign's coordinated heckling of David Axelrod and the candidate's surprise visit to Solyndra, is different. The base is happy—happy enough to overlook the fact that Romney is a moderate. As Coppins puts it, "[H]is new appeal to the right marks a recognition that he can court conservatives without, in any traditional sense, 'tacking right.'"

Really, though? The evidence on the first point is compelling; one conservative Coppins spoke to even compares Romney's stunt war to Andrew Breitbart. But the evidence is also pretty clear that moderate Romney tacked very, very hard to the right over the course of the GOP primary. If conservatives are learning to love Romney, in part it's because he's adopted almost all of their preferred policies. Romney has been a vocal supporter of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said at the time "would produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history, while increasing poverty and inequality more than any measure in recent times and possibly in the nation's history."

Romney came out against gay adoption the day after President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage. He supports eliminating all funding for Planned Parenthood from the federal budget, which is a roundabout way of saying he supports eliminating Title X funding for women's health—a position that puts him to the right of Rick Santorum. He's gone from holding progressive views on climate change to saying "we don't know" whether humans have anything to do it. If deliberately ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus to raise money and win votes isn't tacking to the right, I'm really at a loss as to what is.

Obama's Troubles in One Chart

| Fri Jun. 1, 2012 9:12 AM EDT

Not a good morning for Team Obama. The monthly jobs report was weaker than expected. Only 69,000 jobs were created—less than half of the 150,000 expected, and unemployment ticked up to 8.2 percent. This comes at a rather inopportune time for the president (as well as the entire country). He and his advisers are desperately trying to use the pre-summer weeks—before voters slip into their vacations-and-Olympics lull—to define Mitt Romney as a vulture capitalist who was a dud of a governor in Massachusetts. Their goal is to create a deep negative impression of the presumptive GOP nominee as soon as possible so they won't have to start the process again in September. Meanwhile, Romney's aim is somewhat easier: to superglue the president to the lousy economy. And, on that score, the jobs report helps greatly.

To see why Obama is indeed in trouble, one need only look at what had once been one of the White House's favorite charts:

Courtesy of the White HouseCourtesy of the White HouseFor two years, administration officials have been waving this graphic. It clearly shows the hole that Obama inherited and demonstrates that a turnaround did begin soon after he entered office. But take a gander at the three most recent bars. They indicate a steep drop in this turnaround and a disturbing trend. 

Certainly, there can be a debate as to what is stifling jobs creation. Gridlock in Congress caused by GOP obstructionism could be blamed. No doubt, Obama's jobs bill, if passed, would lead to new jobs. But Romney has the easy argument at the moment: it's not working. He doesn't have to define the it.

For many voters, it's the president who needs to do the explaining. The White House did release a statement this morning:

Just like last year at this time, our economy is facing serious headwinds, including the crisis in Europe and a spike in gas prices that hit American families' finances over the past months. It is critical that we continue the President’s economic policies that are helping us dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession. In the American Jobs Act and in the State of the Union Address, the President put forward a number of proposals to create jobs and strengthen the economy, including proposals that would put teachers back in the classroom and cops on the beat, and put our nation’s construction workers back on the job rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.

And the White House statement added: "As the Administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report." But that's sort of like telling someone: "Don't think about an elephant." Whoops. You just did.

For Obama to have a chance of reelection, the bars to come on this chart will have to get bigger. At the moment, the White House's Exhibit A is becoming evidence for the other side.

Scott Walker Aide Wanted Union Foe Michelle Rhee to Counter Teacher Protests, Email Shows

| Fri Jun. 1, 2012 5:32 AM EDT
Former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.

Days after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker "dropped the bomb" on his state's public employees last year by proposing to cut most of their collective bargaining rights, a top Walker aide suggested bringing controversial school reform advocate and union foe Michelle Rhee to Wisconsin to quell potential teacher protests, according to newly released internal emails.

On February 12, 2011, the day after Walker unveiled his anti-union budget "repair" bill known as Act 10, Walker's communications director Chris Schrimpf told colleagues that he believed teachers would put up a formidable fight over Walker's assault on unions. "It seems from the coverage overall that the teachers are going to be the greatest opposition to this, which makes sense since they are in every community and can talk about 'the kids,'" Schrimpf wrote. "Communicating to them and correcting their message will be key." Schrimpf suggested sending letters to teachers, superintendents, and school boards touting Walker's bill.

In a subsequent email, Schrimpf takes his teacher outreach idea one step further by bringing up Rhee: "I wonder if we should talk to michelle rhee's group, students first. If we could get her to come do something that would give us a lot."

Here's the exchange with Schrimpf's emails, released as part of an open records request:

 

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This Week in Dark Money

| Fri Jun. 1, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money...

the money shot

Total raised by super-PACs (so far): $218 million
Ratio of spending by conservative super-PACs to liberal super-PACs: 7.7 to 1
Total raised by Barack Obama: $217.1 million
Total raised by Mitt Romney: $97.9 million
Total raised by congressional candidates: $639.4 million
Total raised by state candidates: $378.6 million
Sources: Center for Responsive Politics, National Institute for Money in State Politics

quote of the week

"This idea of giving public beatings has been around for a long time…You go back to the Dark Ages when they put these people in the stocks or whatever they did, or publicly humiliated them as a deterrent to everybody else—watch this—watch what we do to the guy who did this."
—Frank VanderSloot, CEO of the direct-marketing company Melaleuca, speaking to Politico about the public humilation of being a Romney megadonor.

stat of the week

$1 billion: How much conservative outside groups plan to spend on the 2012 race for the White House, Politico reports. That includes $400 million from organizations connected to the Koch brothers' dark-money efforts.

race of the week

David Dewhurst v. Ted Cruz: Outside groups spent more than $6.4 million ahead of Tuesday's Republican Senate primary between Texas Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and tea partier/former state Solicitor General Cruz. Neither managed to snag more than 50 percent of the vote, so they're headed to a July runoff—and probably a fresh influx of super-PAC cash.

attack ads of the week

A couple of new attack ads released Tuesday by the Romney campaign and Karl Rove's American Crossroads super-PAC lobbed remarkably similar criticisms at Obama's investments in energy companies like Solyndra. The Obama campaign and the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA have also aired curiously overlapping ads. It's illegal for candidates and super-PACs to coordinate their messages, but even if they did, the fines would likely be negligible, and the Federal Election Commission can't even agree on what exactly defines "coordination."

Here's the Romney ad:

And American Crossroads':

more mojo dark money coverage

• Half of Scott Walker's Cash Comes From Out-of-State Dark-Money Donors: GOP heavyweights pour millions into "ground zero for the battle against Obama's liberal agenda."
• Our Nation's Biggest Money Problem of All: There appears to be no stopping the tidal wave of money that's overtaken our political system.
Bye, Bye Buddy: Ex-Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer is dropping out of the presidential race. A look at the political and personal demons that fueled his feisty campaign.
No Disclosure, Please, We're Contractors: A new bill would make it harder to find out about federal contractors' dark-money donations.

more must-reads

• Mystery millions: The source of $55 million doled out by a Koch-connected dark-money group remains unknown. Los Angeles Times
• Then: Obama calls super-PAC donors "threat to democracy." Now: Super-PAC donors mingle at the White House. Sunlight Foundation
• Mitt Romney's billionaire donors expect a big return on their investments. Rolling Stone
• What does John Edwards' not guilty verdict mean for the future of campaign finance? Christian Science Monitor

Mother of All Wars: The Battle to Breastfeed in Uniform

| Fri Jun. 1, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

Weapons of mass distraction: Air Force Sgt. Terran Echegoyen McCabe and Staff Sgt. Christina Luna feed their babies in uniform Brynja SigurdardottirWeapons of mass distraction: Air Force Sgt. Terran Echegoyen McCabe and Staff Sgt. Christina Luna feed their babies in uniform. Brynja SigurdardottirThere's the war on women, and there's the war on breastfeeding. Then there's the war on breastfeeding women warriors. That latter struggle broke out earlier this week, when the interwebs discovered a staged photo of two uniformed female Air Force service members offering up camouflage-clad mammaries for their hungry babes. Sgt. Terran Echegoyen McCabe and Staff Sgt. Christina Luna, pictured above, sat for the photo shoot in order to garner attention for Mom2Mom, a network for service-connected mothers at Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane, Washington.

It certainly got attention. "A lot of people are saying it's a disgrace to the uniform," Crystal Scott, the founder of Mom2Mom, told NBC this week. "They're comparing it to urinating and defecating [while in uniform]." Now, a viral debate's busted out over the propriety of Uncle Sam's finest nursing while dressed for battle.

The funny thing is, the military takes a relatively progressive attitude toward service members breastfeeding. Each branch of service allows lactating mothers to defer overseas deployments by 4 to 12 months. And the Air Force even mandated regular break periods and safe spaces for women to breastfeed or pump while on duty, two years before Obamacare required all employers to observe similar provisions.

Final Wisconsin Recall Debate a Bruising Stalemate

| Fri Jun. 1, 2012 12:19 AM EDT
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, left, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

After avoiding confrontation in his first debate with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Gov. Scott Walker punched back hard and often on Thursday night in second and final debate of Wisconsin's bruising, cash-soaked recall campaign. Walker ripped Barrett as weak on crime and suggested he was clueless when it came to a plan to jump-start Wisconsin's economy. Barrett, meanwhile, kept up his attacks on Walker's integrity by highlighting the so-called John Doe investigation that has resulted in criminal charges against three former Walker aides, a Walker campaign donor, and a political appointee.

"I have a police department that arrests felons. He has a practice of hiring them," Barrett said in one of the night's most memorable lines.

The debate, ably moderated by Milwaukee broadcast journalist Mike Gousha, veered from the investigation swirling around Walker to job creation in Wisconsin to right-to-work legislation to the impacts of Walker's Act 10 legislation that curbed collective bargaining rights for most public-sector unions. Both candidates sounded sharp and on message, yet it's unclear if either said anything groundshaking enough to win over undecided voters.

Walker repeatedly said that his economic reforms, including his anti-union legislation, were benefitting Wisconsin's schools and businesses. He also stood by the newer set of jobs figures he released, claiming they showed progress in the state. "I realize this undermines the whole focal point of your ads for the last few months, but the facts are the facts," Walker said. "Wisconsin gained jobs in 2012, we gained jobs in 2011."