Mojo - August 2012

Tampa 2012: The Birthers Cometh (With Video)

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 7:29 AM EDT

David Lipinoga, a Republican town committeeman from Amherst, New York, isn't a delegate at the Republic National Convention. He's here to sell stuff—specifically, an Angry Birds-style Android game called "Angry Patriots and Pinheads" that's designed to educate users on the radicalism of President Obama. Here, you can even watch a demo. But, as I found out when I talked to him on Monday outside the press filing center in Tampa, he's also got some...interesting thoughts about President Obama's real name, Social Security number, and place of birth:

One more example why Mitt Romney's birther joke in Michigan last Friday was almost certainly not a gaffe; plenty of conservatives still believe this stuff and Romney wants their votes.

Music by Mike Smirnoff.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

"The Best Thing About the Platform Is That Nobody Cares About the Platform"

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 3:15 AM EDT

Former GOP presidential candidate and full-time Mitt Romney troll Fred Karger.Former GOP presidential candidate and full-time Mitt Romney critic Fred KargerIf you don't count Fred Karger, there was only one gay Republican candidate at the happy hour for gay Republican candidates on Monday at Oystercatchers, an upscale seafood joint in Tampa overlooking the St. Petersburg causeway. Nor, for that matter, in a city that's swimming with Republican political heavyweights, were there any Republican political heavyweights in attendance. That's not much of a surprise for a party whose draft platform sought to deny rights to gay families and tacitly endorsed the persecution of gays in Uganda and other African nations.

But Michael Carr, an internet marketer who's running for a state Senate seat in the Denver suburbs, isn't particularly bothered by the GOP's anti-gay platform. "The best thing about the platform is that nobody cares about the platform," Carr says. A member of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's LGBT steering committee (Huntsman was the only GOP candidate with an LGBT steering committee), Carr is the guest of honor at the event, hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans. He's convinced the best is yet to come—Republicans might even nominate a pro-gay marriage presidential candidate as early as 2016.

"Politicians are looking at the data," Carr says. "We might have someone who's on the national stage 'evolve.'" Everyone I talk to at Oystercatchers uses that word, "evolve," a nod to President Obama's own shift on gay rights.

But Carr is being diplomatic. David Valkema ("It means 'falcon' in Dutch"), a Romney delegate from Indiana, is less so. His beef isn't with the homophobic leaders of the Republican party, with whom he agrees with on almost everything else. It's with gay liberals.

"I'm sick and tired of being a Jew for Hitler," he says. "I'm like, 'Where's your tolerance? You accept everyone else under the sun except for us.'" Although a recent poll showed that 44 percent of Republicans in Wisconsin—a comparatively progressive state—say they'd never vote for an openly gay candidate, Valkema thinks Republicans are quietly shifting behind the scenes. Case in point: This summer he helped convince the Indiana GOP to scrap any mention of marriage from the its platform. It wasn't an endorsement of marriage equality, but it wasn't a chest-beating condemnation either.

Last week, for the first time ever, Log Cabin Republicans were invited to participate in the drafting of the RNC platform—a symbolic gesture that didn't leave much of a dent in the final product. But with gay candidates like Carr and Massachusetts congressional candidate Richard Tisei on the ballot this far, they sense a shift.

As Casey Pick, an organizer of the event puts it, "Now, the debate on LGBT equality is completely out of the closet."

Bizarre Super-PAC Targets Liberal Icon Raúl Grijalva...and Sheriff Joe

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 3:15 AM EDT
Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a progressive stalwart in Congress, doesn't have much to worry about in his primary election Tuesday. But in the lead-up to it, Grijalva got a nasty taste of the dark-money-funded political warfare that has characterized the 2012 elections.

Voters in Grijalva's southwestern Arizona district opened their mailboxes in recent days to find a mailer attacking their congresssman for voting to cut $716 billion from Medicare, missing more than 400 votes in Congress, and having "voted against jobs for Arizona." The mailer's opposite side strongly endorsed Grijalva's opponent, Amanda Aguirre, calling her "a real Democrat who fights for the middle class." The mailer's source: A mysterious, blandly named super-PAC called the Opportunity for All Committee.

Gingrich: I'd Recommend Pro-Gold Activists for Romney Gold Commission

| Tue Aug. 28, 2012 3:00 AM EDT

Ron Paul must be thrilled: After over three decades in the wilderness, the gold standard has returned to the Republican party platform. As Bloomberg reported on Friday, the draft GOP platform—the party's road map for where it wants to lead the country—includes a call for a presidential commission to study pegging the value of the dollar to the price of gold. And even though the primary is long over, Paul is not the only top Republican still pushing for gold to have a big role in Mitt Romney's presidency. 

During the primary, Paul, a long proponent of what he calls "sound money," and later Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, embraced the idea of a gold commission. During the South Carolina primary, Gingrich said that he'd appoint Lewis Lehrman, a banker, and Jim Grant, a prominent investment adviser, to co-chair the gold commission. Both Lehrman and Grant (Paul's pick to replace Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve) are prominent advocates of the gold standard. 

Now that the commission he and Paul supported is part of the draft party platform, I asked Gingrich whether he still supported Lehrman and Grant's appointments—and whether he'd push Mitt Romney to appoint them if elected president. "Yes," he said. "I'd recommend them." Romney himself has expressed skepticism about the gold standard, which he told CNBC's Larry Kudlow in January is not a "magic bullet substitute for economic restraint." He'd be free to ignore the GOP platform and Gingrich's recommendations if elected president. But the inclusion of the commission proposal in the platform, and Gingrich's willingness to press the issue, suggest that Romney will remain under some pressure from his right to at least acknowledge the concerns of gold proponents.

The idea of a gold commission isn't new—Ronald Reagan established one in 1981, but the members voted 15 to 2 against advising a return to gold. (Lehrman was one of the dissenters.) America's monetary policy was based on the gold standard for much of its history, until President Richard Nixon abandoned it for good in 1971. Since then, a small but significant movement, often led by Paul has advocated a return to gold.

Today, Lehrman is the chairman of the Lehrman Institute, which pushes for "prosperity through gold." Its website is thegoldstandardnow.org. Grant is a senior adviser to the group.

Most modern economists are skeptical of the idea, and liberal ones absolutely loathe it. A recent University of Chicago poll of top economists found that zero agreed that "defining a 'dollar' as a specific number of ounces of gold" would lead to better "price-stability and employment outcomes" for "the average American." Paul Krugman, the liberal icon (and target of many Paul fans' ire) wrote Sunday that "under the gold standard America had no major financial panics other than in 1873, 1884, 1890, 1893, 1907, 1930, 1931, 1932, and 1933." Famed economist Milton Friedman, who could not be mistaken for a Krugmanite, famously said "those people who say they believe in a gold standard are fundamentally being very anti-libertarian because what they mean by a gold standard is a governmentally fixed price for gold."

Corn on "Hardball": What To Expect at the GOP Convention

Tue Aug. 28, 2012 2:39 AM EDT

David Corn and Erin McPike joined host Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball live at the Republican national convention to discuss how the speaker lineup illuminates the fault lines in the GOP and the Romney campaign's strategy in Tampa. Read more MoJo coverage of the convention here.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

Where's Pat Buchanan?

| Mon Aug. 27, 2012 1:04 PM EDT

One of the more infamous moments of recent presidential conventions occurred at the Republican gathering in Houston in 1992, when commentator Patrick Buchanan, who had unsuccessfully challenged President George H.W. Bush in the GOP primaries, took to the stage in prime time and delivered a thunderous address declaring the United States was in the midst of a "cultural war." He was in full firebrand:

Friends, this election is about more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe and what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself. For this war is for the soul of America. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side. And so to the Buchanan Brigades out there, we have to come home and stand beside George Bush.

The electrifying speech was a sensation...for the right. Many political commentators, though, considered it weighty baggage for the Bush-Quayle ticket, hurting Bush with moderate voters. Molly Ivins quipped, the speech "probably sounded better in the original German."

So with the Republican Party now skewed far to the right, is the hero of its culture-war troopers present in Tampa to rally once again the true believers? No, Pat Buchanan, who was recently dropped by MSNBC, is skipping the festivities. He is, instead, at the Delaware shore, toiling away on his latest book, according to his sister, Bay Buchanan, a prominent emissary to social conservatives for Mitt Romney.

Buchanan's new work is on Richard Nixon, his one-time boss. And it could be a doozy of a book, for Buchanan has a trove of insider stories about the Old Man. Buchanan, who has hailed Nixon as a brilliant fellow, witnessed Nixon at his best and his worst, and, back in the day, Buchanan was always eager to suggest or implement political war plans for the Nixon White White. If he can produce a book that honestly confronts Nixon's dark side, Buchanan might do a service for history. And he may be helping Romney by steering clear of Tampa.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Romney Backs Taxpayer-Funded Elections, Gives His Base a New Reason to Bitch

| Mon Aug. 27, 2012 12:52 PM EDT

Mitt Romney just gave the Republican Party's conservative base another reason to face-palm over their party's presidential candidate. In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Romney said he "absolutely" supports returning to taxpayer-funded presidential elections if he wins in 2012 and runs for a second term in 2016. "To be competitive, we're obviously following suit," he said of his decision to forgo public financing, like the Obama campaign. "But I'd far rather have a setting where we had both agreed to the federal spending limits."

It's a strange statement for Romney to make, especially given his still-uneasy relationship with the Republican right. Conservatives, whom Romney needs to turn out in droves in key battleground states this fall, vehemently oppose taxpayers footing the bill for elections of any kind—local, state, or national. Conservative attorneys have made a career out of challenging and gutting public financing programs; recently they've scored wins doing just that in North Carolina and Arizona. One of the first acts of the current GOP's House majority was a vote to repeal the federal public financing system. (The Democrat-controlled Senate did not follow suit.)

First conceived in the wake of the scandals of the 1974 presidential election, publicly-financed elections were seen as a way to ween candidates from the big checks and undue influence of private donors. Instead, a fixed amount of taxpayer money would be set aside for presidential candidates. Everyone from Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton took public money for their presidential campaigns.

In 2008, Barack Obama sensed he could raise more money on his own, and so broke a previous pledge to accept public financing. He trounced McCain in the campaign money race, ultimately spending $730 million to McCain's $333 million. This presidential campaign, it was never in doubt that Obama and Romney would reject public funds, teeing up the first general election since Watergate with neither candidate taking taxpayer money. Doing so would've capped the candidates' campaign spending at $45.6 million during the primary season and $91.2 million in the general election. In contrast, the Obama campaign has spent $263 million and Romney team $163 million to date.

The Public Campaign Action Fund, a supporter of less money in elections, called on both candidates to offer plans to revamp the country's outdated public financing system. "Both candidates like to talk about the influence of money on their opponent's policies," said David Donnelly, executive director of Public Campaign Action Fund, "but neither has offered a plan on how to address it."

Draft GOP Platform Defends Anti-Gay Laws in Africa

| Mon Aug. 27, 2012 10:24 AM EDT

An early draft of the Republican platform published by Politico accuses the Obama administration of "attempting to impose" on the "peoples of Africa…legalized abortion and the homosexual rights agenda." Since 2006, with the urging and influence of US conservative Christian groups, several African countries have considered or passed laws outlawing homosexuality. The most infamous of them, proposed in Uganda, would impose the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality."

As for imposing the ambitious "homosexual rights agenda" of trying to prevent people from being murdered or imprisoned by the state for not being heterosexual, in December of 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech proclaiming that "gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights." Shortly afterward, President Obama issued a memo "directing all agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons." Texas Governor Rick Perry, then seeking the Republican nomination for president, said: "This is just the most recent example of an administration at war with people of faith in this country," and that "promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America's interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers' money." In some circles, not being imprisoned or executed for your sexual orientation is apparently a "special right."

The United States itself is less than a decade past the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas that struck down laws that criminalized homosexuality. Make no mistake however: The language in this draft of the GOP platform protests the Obama administration's efforts against laws that would levy criminal sanctions, including death, on people simply because of their sexual orientation. 

A related point: The "human rights" section of the GOP platform is one small paragraph, perhaps the tiniest section other than the one devoted to "public diplomacy." There are no harsh words for the administration in areas that have drawn international criticism, such as deaths of civilians in drone strikes. The section is focused on attacking the Obama administration for supposedly not standing up for "religious freedom," and it refers only to the persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East and "fanaticism" in "West and East Africa." As far as the GOP is concerned, "religious freedom" doesn't extend to people who do not subscribe to the religious conviction that homosexuality is sinful and should be punished by the state. 

Romney and His Gang: "They're Comfortable."

| Mon Aug. 27, 2012 10:16 AM EDT

In the mostly empty Tampa Bay Times Forum this morning, media professionals, politicos of D and R designations, and pundits are milling about, as the world waits breathlessly for the GOP convention to begin tomorrow. While strolling through the arena, I ran into a top Republican who has not been so keen on Mitt Romney and his campaign tactics over the past year. He believes the Romney campaign has failed to engage voters in a fundamental fashion—regarding either Romney's biography or policy beliefs.

Do you expect anything major to change on the Romney side? I asked.

"No," he said, a tone of sadness in his voice. "I talk to people in the campaign and they tell me they're comfortable where they are now."

Really? I followed up. Given the lousy economy and the polls showing doom-and-gloom among the electorate, shouldn't Romney be ten points ahead of the guy in the White House?

"Yes, but they think they're in a good spot. And when you feel comfortable, you don't change things."

He rolled his eyes and added, "At least the weather is getting better."

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 27, 2012

Mon Aug. 27, 2012 9:56 AM EDT

U.S. Marines with the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion call mortar strikes during night training at a site outside of Yuma, Ariz., Aug. 13, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Rebecca Eller.