American Bridge 21st Century, the liberal super-PAC launched by Media Matters founder David Brock, preempted Thursday night convention speeches by Mitt Romney and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) with a web ad pitting Rubio's words against Romney. "For almost all of history, almost everyone was poor," Rubio says. "Only a few people had power and wealth and prosperity." Then, as the video displays quotes critical of the low tax rate Romney has paid, Rubio continues: "And so the people with all the power, the big corporations, the multi-billonaires, they used their influence to get the rules written to their advantage."
stat of the week
$450,000: The amount that Florida developer Gary Morse has given to the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future. Morse owns the Cracker Bay, the unfortunately named yacht Romney bundlers partied on in Tampa. The ship flies the flag of the Cayman Islands, a notorious tax haven that Romney's not too eager to associate himself with. Other bundlers at the bash included Romney's national finance chairman Ron Weiser, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, and real estate developer Bob Pence, who's given Restore Our Future $350,000. (Unlike Obama, Romney has not disclosed the names of all his bundlers.)
chart of the week
Here's more evidence of the influence of dark money in the wake of Citizens United: Spending by outside groups has skyrocketed in the 2012 election, tripling the pace set in 2008. The Center for Responsive Politics has it charted:
• Campaign finance reform groups try to shed light on the dark-money dealings at the RNC. Politico
• A look at how "big business is buying the election." The Nation
• The anti-tax Club for Growth's dark-money machine's latest victory: Helping Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to a Senate primary win. Center for Public Integrity
• Rep. Flake is just the latest of several candidates who have won primaries despite being outspent. Politico
• The Sunlight Foundation has a new app for the iPhone and Android to help viewers debunk attack ads. New Scientist
On Thursday night, Clint Eastwood, the Academy Award-winning actor, director, and screenwriter, delivered one of the most bizarre political convention speeches in American history.
Speaking without prepared remarks, Eastwood carried on an imaginary conversation with an invisible President Obama seated in a chair next to him on the convention stage. I can't even begin to try to summarize Eastwood's rambling address to a bewildered audience and press corps. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, looked less than pleased with Eastwood's speech. And the Hollywood star's invisible Obama skit quickly spawned its own Twitter feed—@InvisibleObama—and a satirical 2012 presidential bid. As well as #eastwooding.
Behold, Eastwood/Chair 2012:
Twitter user @zdroberts
Asked by Politico to respond to Eastwood's speech, Obama press secretary Ben LaBolt replied: "Referring all questions on this to Salvador Dalí."
Here's the full transcript of Eastwood's remarks:
EASTWOOD: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Save a little for Mitt.
(APPLAUSE) I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, what’s a movie tradesman doing out here? You know they are all left-wingers out there, left of Lenin. At least that is what people think. That is not really the case. There are a lot of conservative people, a lot of moderate people, Republicans, Democrats, in Hollywood. It is just that the conservative people by the nature of the word itself play closer to the vest. They do not go around hot-dogging it.
So—but they are there, believe me, they are there. I just think, in fact, some of them around town, I saw Jon Voight, a lot of people around…
See our full coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Jon's here, an academy award winner. A terrific guy. These people are all like-minded, like all of us.
So I—so I've got Mr. Obama sitting here. And he's—I was going to ask him a couple of questions. But—you know about—I remember three and a half years ago, when Mr. Obama won the election. And though I was not a big supporter, I was watching that night when he was having that thing and they were talking about hope and change and they were talking about, yes we can, and it was dark outdoors, and it was nice, and people were lighting candles.
They were saying, I just thought, this was great. Everybody is trying, Oprah was crying.
I was even crying. And then finally—and I haven't cried that hard since I found out that there is 23 million unemployed people in this country.
Now that is something to cry for because that is a disgrace, a national disgrace, and we haven't done enough, obviously—this administration hasn’t done enough to cure that. Whenever interest they have is not strong enough, and I think possibly now it may be time for somebody else to come along and solve the problem.
So, Mr. President, how do you handle promises that you have made when you were running for election, and how do you handle them?
I mean, what do you say to people? Do you just—you know—I know—people were wondering—you don't—handle that okay. Well, I know even people in your own party were very disappointed when you didn’t close Gitmo. And I thought, well closing Gitmo—why close that, we spent so much money on it. But, I thought maybe as an excuse—what do you mean shut up?
Okay, I thought maybe it was just because somebody had the stupid idea of trying terrorists in downtown New York City.
I've got to to hand it to you. I have to give credit where credit is due. You did finally overrule that finally. And that's—now we are moving onward. I know you were against the war in Iraq, and that's okay. But you thought the war in Afghanistan was okay. You know, I mean—you thought that was something worth doing. We didn't check with the Russians to see how they did it—they did there for 10 years.
But we did it, and it is something to be thought about, and I think that, when we get to maybe—I think you've mentioned something about having a target date for bringing everybody home. You gave that target date, and I think Mr. Romney asked the only sensible question, you know, he says, "Why are you giving the date out now? Why don't you just bring them home tomorrow morning?"
And I thought—I thought, yeah—I am not going to shut up, it is my turn.
So anyway, we're going to have—we're going to have to have a little chat about that. And then, I just wondered, all these promises—I wondered about when the—what do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him to do that. I can't tell him to do that to himself.
You're crazy, you're absolutely crazy. You're getting as bad as Biden.
Of course we all now Biden is the intellect of the Democratic party.
Kind of a grin with a body behind it.
But I just think that there is so much to be done, and I think that Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are two guys that can come along. See, I never thought it was a good idea for attorneys to the president, anyway.
I think attorneys are so busy—you know they’re always taught to argue everything, and always weight everything—weigh both sides…They are always devil’s advocating this and bifurcating this and bifurcating that. You know all that stuff. But, I think it is maybe time—what do you think—for maybe a businessman. How about that?
A stellar businessman. Quote, unquote, "a stellar businessman."
And I think it's that time. And I think if you just step aside and Mr. Romney can kind of take over. You can maybe still use a plane.
Though maybe a smaller one. Not that big gas guzzler you are going around to colleges and talking about student loans and stuff like that.
See our full coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention.
For campaign-trail veterans, one of the most important things at every convention—along with booze—is figuring out which pop-up lounges you should hit up to charge your batteries, swill some coffee, and grab a (preferably free) bite. Huffington Post has the "Oasis," featuring unpaid massage therapists. CNG, the natural gas giant, has sofas and cafe con leche at the press filing center. Google's lounge, replete with wireless and a gratis coffee bar, has basically been MoJo's Tampa bureau for the last five days. But the award for Most Posh Convention Hotspot of 2012 has to go to the Miriam Adelson Young Guns Pavilion, named for one half of the GOP's dark money power couple and sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's Young Guns Action Fund. (It is probably not a coincidence that the Adelsons gave YGAF $5 million this year.)
As you can see, it's really pink. When I stopped by on Tuesday, volunteers walked through the seating area offering everyone (almost everyone) free hair and makeup. The WiFi is free, the air extra-cool, and the "Woman Up-Tinis" are made special to order. Here's a quick tour:
After a few days of rabid Twitter-based speculation, the Romney campaign revealed that legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood is slated to speak at the Republican National Convention some time after a musical performace by American IdolTaylor Hicks, but before a speech by Marco Rubio. Eastwood threw his weight behind Romney earlier this month, when endorsing the former Massachusetts governor at an Idaho fundraiser.
Full disclosure: I'm an unabashed fan of the 82-year-old filmmaker, whatever his politics. But as the self-professed libertarian and "Eisenhower Republican" is going all-in for Romney/Ryan 2012, it is worth reading this:
Eastwood: These people who are making a big deal out of gay marriage? I don't give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?!...They go on and on with all this bullshit about "sanctity"—don't give me that sanctity crap! Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want.
Gina Rinehart, whose inheritance increases by $618 every second.
Note to American exceptionalists: Other countries have insensitive rich people, too. Australian Gina Rinehart, reportedly the world's wealthiest woman, has a message for you poor people. "In her latest column in Australian Resources and Investment magazine," Yahoo reports, "Rinehart rails against class warfare and says the non-rich should stop attacking the rich and go to work":
"There is no monopoly on becoming a millionaire," she writes. "If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself—spend less time drinking, or smoking and socializing and more time working."
Pray, what does Rinehart do for a living? She is a "mining heiress," according to the piece.
But she would like you to know that her grandfathers "started at the bottom and worked their way to the top."
Indeed, Rinehart's wealth is derived from a family trust and an executive position in a mining company she inherited from her father after his death in 1992. Since then, she's kept very busy—pouring her wealth into conservative causes and political front groups she helped set up, not unlike the scions of the oil-enriched Koch family here in the states. She recently tried to import cheap visa workers after unionized Australian miners asked for a competitive wage, and in 2011 she sponsored an Australian tour by Lord Christopher Monckton, a noted climate-change skeptic.
Rinehart's fortune reportedly increases by $52 million Australian dollars a day. In US dollars, that works out to be about $618 every second. And she'd really like you to get off your lazy ass and pull your weight, please.
In recent weeks, Mother Jones has explored the phenomenon of mansplaining, when males patronizingly (and often incorrectly) explain things to ladies as if the latter were ignorant children. I'd like to coin a new term for bloviating lectures of the sort Rinehart gave, wherein a rich person confidently tells the non-rich what's wrong with them. While discussing this with the MoJo staff, my colleague Adam Serwer thought of libertarian hero Ayn Rand, who popularized the notion of the super rich being naturally moral. He hit on a good portmanteau: randsplaining. I rather like that. Internets, go do your thing.
The official Republican party platform has some pretty extreme stuff. It condemns President Obama for standing up to the persecution of gay people in certain parts of Africa. It takes aim at the the creeping threat of Islamic Shariah law. It calls a nationwide ban on abortion with no exceptions for rape. So it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that Texas was represented on the platform-drafting committee by none other than David Barton, the the right-wing historian whose work has influenced everyone from Newt Gingrich to the Texas State Board of Education.
Barton's brand of history is creative. His driving idea is that the Founding Fathers were divinely inspired to found a nation based on Christian principals. As a consequence, he believes that the theory of evolution is antithetical to the Constitution, the Seventh Amendment bans abortion, Jesus would've opposed the minimum wage, and the federal government is controlled by demons. On Wednesday, he told Glenn Beck's television station that of the 71 amendments he'd introduced to the platform, 70 had passed. But Barton's prominence at the RNC comes even as his own work is facing increasing scrutiny from his longtime allies in the Evangelical community. They say many of his claims are unsbustantiated. Earlier this month, Barton's publishing house, Thomas Nelson, pulled his new book, The Jefferson Lies.
When I ran into him outside the front security checkpoint in downtown Tampa, though, (he was easy to pick out, in his trademark cowboy hat and Texas-flag t-shirt), Barton wasn't backing down.
David Barton waits outside a Rick Santorum rally in Tampa."See we've got all the documentation," he said. "They've never asked for the documentation. So we're doing a response that comes back out that produces tons more than they've got and it makes them look shoddy. The response is it's the old thing of the rite of confrontation: One side sounds good until you've heard the other."
Barton promises to shame his critics with new troves of information and testimony from experts. "We have cartons of documentation," he said. "We've taken groups of PhDs through it since the attack came out and they've all agreed, it's documented. The other guys may not like it."
But could Barton provide the names of the professionally trained historians he's said are on his side?
"There are several."
And who are they?
"They'll come out with their own thing. There's a group that will come out with it and stand on it."
In other words, it's a secret. Still, even as his reputation continues to erode among Evangelical scholars, Barton said the kerfuffle over his record hasn't done much to hurt his business. Since he's found a new publisher, "the sales have been through the roof."
One of our policies at MoJo is that when we stumble across a pair of pint-sized political junkies being quizzed about Martin Van Buren by a flock of eager Young Republicans, we have to stop, grab a minute of video, and relay it to our readers. So here you go. The best stuff comes about 32 seconds in, when Miniature Political Whiz #2 begins talking about Martin Van Buren. The two brothers were at the convention as guests of the EllenDeGeneresShow.
The report lists Staples as one of the 50 largest low-wage employers in the US. The company has continued to turn high profits even in the recession, and its CEO made $8.8 million in 2011 (which was a 40 percent drop from what he made in 2010). And yet most of its nearly 33,000 employees make less than $10 per hour. Here's part of the graphic that goes with the report:
National Employment Law Project Action Fund also highlights the fact that next week's Democratic National Convention lineup includes Jim Sinegal, the former CEO of Costco, also a hugely profitable corporation, which pays workers an average of $19 an hour and gives many of them health benefits. There are pretty clear differences between the businesses that the political parties are holding up as examples of "success" at their conventions.
That's not, of course, to say that Costco is without its issues. The AFL-CIO and other unions have been picketing the chain, accusing it of not following its own Supplier Code of Conduct for continuing to do business with the frozen pizza manufacturer Palermo Pizza, whose workers have been on strike since June after the company refused to recognize their attempts to unionize.