Mojo - September 2012

Mass. Democrats Give Romney the Death Hug

| Tue Sep. 4, 2012 5:25 PM EDT

There was something missing from the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week, and Jim Roosevelt found it. "I've had a number of members of the press who were in Tampa comment to me how remarkable it was that in four days of convention compressed to three, there was never a mention of Governor Romney's greatest achievement, and that is the health care legislation he passed in Massachusetts," the DNC official told a gathering of Massachusetts delegates on Tuesday.

Democrats—and Massachusetts Democrats in particular—have spent a good portion of the last year or so arguing Romney was a failed governor who'd make a terrible president. But, at an industry-sponsored forum on the effects Romney's landmark 2006 health care reform law (it was held on a wood-paneled room in the 47th-floor offices of health care lobbying firm K&L Gates), they had a different message: Thanks.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, rattling off a list of statistics—98 percent of Massachusetts residents and 99.8 percent of kids now have insurance; 90 percent of residents have a primary care doctor—had nothing but praise for his predecessor. "The beauty of what happened was not that it was a perfect idea from the outset; it was that this broad coalition decided that there was a better solution than the usual two, which was a perfect solution or no solution at all," he said. "Policy matters only at the point where it touches people in my view. And in that respect this policy matters. I am very proud of what we've done in Massachusetts. I think, by the way, Mitt Romney is too." As proof, he pointed to Romney's official portrait:

It's kind of jarring sometimes to walk by and see him sitting, on my desk, with my pictures behind it. And they have painted in two things. One is a photograph on an easel of Mrs. Romney with forget-me-nots behind her. It's very beautiful. And the other thing that's painted in sitting next to Governor Romney on the desk is the health care bill. The health care bill!...There's only one thing it could be. And at the time he acknowledged that's what it was AND HE SHOULD HAVE! Because it's done a lot of good for a lot of good people. There's no doubt that in my mind that if the Affordable Care Act, based as you know on what he did in Massachusetts, were polling better nationally he would wrap his arms right around it.

As it stands, Massachusetts Democrats are happy to wrap Romney in a warm embrace of their own. It's a buffer against the GOP nominee's attacks on the Affordable Care Act Romney helped inspire—and a not-so-subtle reminder to skeptical conservatives that the Republican party's nominee just isn't one of them.

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Daily Caller Hawks Racially Tinged Obama-Recession Conspiracy Theory

| Tue Sep. 4, 2012 11:21 AM EDT

Did BHO and his regard for minority mortgagees ruin the economy?

As conspiracy theories go, this one's The Unified Theory of Barack Obama's Disastrous Hand Ruining Everything: Before he entered politics, the president was a crafty trial lawyer whose push to get easy money for black folks in liberal Chicago caused the mortgage meltdown and Great Recession.

That's not exactly how the Daily Caller sums up its new hit piece, but it's close. Led by Neil Munro (yes, that Neil Munro), the conservative tabloid site reports that "President Barack Obama was a pioneering contributor to the national subprime real estate bubble," as the lead attorney in a "landmark 1995 mortgage discrimination lawsuit against Citibank" that sought relief for hundreds of African-American would-be borrowers—many of whom have since defaulted on their loans.

If the Caller's package was all you read, you might conclude that Obama spearheaded a move to force the poor banks to ease its lending standards to put unworthy blacks in homes they couldn't afford, thus causing the financial collapse of 2008. But as Media Matters points out today, it's a craptastic orgy of falsities:

Democrats Retreat on Civil Liberties in 2012 Platform

| Tue Sep. 4, 2012 11:02 AM EDT
US Soldiers jog by a guard tower at Camp Delta in 2010.

What a difference four years makes.

In 2008, Democrats were eager to draw a contrast with what they then portrayed as Republican excesses in the fight against Al Qaeda. Since then, the Obama administration has in many cases continued the national security policies of its predecessor—and the Democratic Party's 2012 platform highlights this reversal, abandoning much of the substance and all of the bombast of the 2008 platform. Here are a few places where the differences are most glaring:

Indefinite Detention
2008: "To build a freer and safer world, we will lead in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people. We will not ship away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, or detain without trial or charge prisoners who can and should be brought to justice for their crimes, or maintain a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law. We will respect the time-honored principle of habeas corpus, the seven century-old right of individuals to challenge the terms of their own detention that was recently reaffirmed by our Supreme Court."

2012: Nothing. The Obama administration has maintained the practice of indefinitely detaining certain suspected terrorists. It has also made use of "proxy detention," by which foreign countries detain US citizens under questionable conditions, although the administration did do away with the Bush-era "black sites."

Warrantless Surveillance/PATRIOT Act
2008: "We support constitutional protections and judicial oversight on any surveillance program involving Americans. We will review the current Administration's warrantless wiretapping program. We reject illegal wiretapping of American citizens, wherever they live. We reject the use of national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. We reject the tracking of citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war…We will revisit the Patriot Act and overturn unconstitutional executive decisions issued during the past eight years."

2012: The platform is silent on this issue. This isn't surprising since, at the urging of the Obama administration, congressional Democrats passed up the opportunity to reform the PATRIOT Act when they had a majority in both houses of Congress

Gitmo
2008: "We will close the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, the location of so many of the worst constitutional abuses in recent years. With these necessary changes, the attention of the world will be directed where it belongs: on what terrorists have done to us, not on how we treat suspects."

2012: "[W]e are substantially reducing the population at Guantánamo Bay without adding to it. And we remain committed to working with all branches of government to close the prison altogether because it is inconsistent with our national security interests and our values." In 2009, most Democrats voted against funding to close Gitmo, and there were substantial internal battles within the administration over doing so

Racial Profiling in Fighting Terrorism
2008: "[W]e will ensure that law-abiding Americans of any origin, including Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans, do not become the scapegoats of national security fears."

2012: Nothing. The Obama administration has in fact retained the FBI's Bush-era guidelines allowing race or religion to play some role in investigations.

Torture
2008: "We reject torture."

2012: "Advancing our interests may involve new actions and policies to confront threats like terrorism, but the President and the Democratic Party believe these practices must always be in line with our Constitution, preserve our people's privacy and civil liberties, and withstand the checks and balances that have served us so well. That is why the President banned torture without exception in his first week in office." Despite Obama's executive order banning torture, Americans who allege they have been detained abroad by foreign governments at the United States' request say they have been abused while in custody. It does not appear as though anyone will face charges over the Bush administration's torture program, including those who went beyond its legal guidelines.

The section of the 2012 Democratic platform titled "Staying True to our Values at Home" states, "We must always seek to uphold these values at home, not just when it is easy, but, more importantly, when it is hard." The distance between the 2008 and 2012 platform shows just how hard it has been, and starkly illustrates the extent to which the Democratic Party has given up on its 2008 promises to roll back the national security state that emerged and expanded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Obama Super-PAC Sets New Record With $10 Million Haul in August

| Tue Sep. 4, 2012 10:40 AM EDT

The super-PAC backing President Obama had its best fundraising month yet in August, hauling in $10 million. That brings Priorities' total fundraising to roughly $35 million for the 2012 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. August's record haul, first reported by the New York Times, is good news for Priorities, but it reflects an uneasiness among wealthy Democratic donors about Obama's chances of reelection.

Many Democratic donors didn't feel the need to give to the pro-Obama super-PAC this winter and spring, fundraisers say, because they thought Obama was a lock to win re-election. That was evident in Priorities' underwhelming fundraising numbers—the super-PAC raised $2.5 million in April, $1.6 million in May, and $4 million in June. But Romney is now neck-and-neck with Obama in national polls, leading in several battleground states, and GOP and conservative super-PACs and nonprofits could spend upwards of $1 billion to defeat Obama and help Republicans take full control of Congress.

Priorities was founded last year by two ex-Obama White House aides, Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, in response to powerful GOP super-PACs like American Crossroads, co-founded by Karl Rove, and the pro-Romney Restore Our Future. American Crossroads has raised $47 million this election cycle, and Restore Our Future has banked more than $80 million. Priorities' staff includes veteran fundraisers Harold Ickes, Paul Begala, and Diana Rogalle.

The Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this week represents a prime opportunity for Priorities and other Democratic super-PACs to woo donors and fill their war chests for the final two months of the campaign season. Priorities and affiliated super-PACs focusing on congressional races will host "Super-O-Rama," a series of invite-only confabs for donors featuring celebrities and musical acts including Pitbull and the Scissor Sisters.

American Bridge 21st Century, the super-PAC focusing on opposition research against GOP candidates, will also fete donors with a Wednesday evening party called the "Celebration of Truthiness." Alice Waters, the event's special guest chef, will dish up food for attendees, and featured guests will include Democratic strategists and TV talking heads Begala and James Carville, Howard Dean, and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 4, 2012

Tue Sep. 4, 2012 9:59 AM EDT

Company B Marines with Marine Barracks Washington, take cover after a live grenade explosion during a live grenade range training exercise at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Aug. 21.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dengrier Baez.

Americans for Prosperity Chief: We Don't Know If $27 Million in Anti-Obama Ads Has Any Effect

| Mon Sep. 3, 2012 4:17 PM EDT
Americans for Prosperity executive Tracy Henke and AFP field staffer Rachel Fei in Missouri.

On Monday Americans for Prosperity, the conservative nonprofit group founded by billionaire David Koch, unveiled its fourth television ad attacking President Obama and demanding his ouster in November's presidential election. The newest ad volley will run in 11 states and cost $6.2 million; after accounting for this latest blitz, AFP's total spending on outright anti-Obama ads will hit $27 million.

But is that money well-spent? Has it moved the dial of public support? Is Obama less likely to win reelection? AFP doesn't know.

AFP president Tim Phillips told Mother Jones at a press conference Monday afternoon that he couldn't speak to the effectiveness of his group's multi-million-dollar anti-Obama campaign. "It's difficult to assess the kind of bang for buck, candidly," he said. "We just wanted to take a stand."

AFP is one of the most powerful political players in national conservative politics. The organization has 200-plus staffers on its payroll, chapters and affiliates in 34 states, and its overall budget will top $100 million in 2012. Because AFP is a nonprofit, it does not disclose its donors and cannot make politicking the bulk of what it does. According to ProPublica, AFP and another politically active nonprofit, the Rove-backed Crossroads GPS, spent more money on TV ads through mid-August than every super-PAC combined.

Phillips pointed out that AFP's anti-Obama ads—seen here, here, here, and here—are the first in the group's eight-year history to specifically call for any one candidate's defeat. "It was a very difficult decision for this organization. We've been around eight years and we've never done express advocacy," he said, referring to the type of ad advocating a vote for or against a candidate. "Frankly we prefer not to" run express advocacy ads, he added.

Phillips also cast doubt on whether AFP will run these kinds of politically charged ads in the future. "Frankly, we don't want to do this, and I don't suspect next year you'll see us, or the next year, doing this again, or in a very limited fashion," he said.

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MoJo's Official DNC Scavenger Hunt

| Mon Sep. 3, 2012 8:30 AM EDT
Politician kissing baby: +1

On Thursday, President Barack Obama will arrive in Charlotte to accept the Democratic nomination for blah blah blah blah blah. Look, conventions can all start to mesh together at a certain point, so to help cut through the clutter, we've decided to turn the Democratic National Convention into a game: It's the official MoJo DNC scavenger hunt. Winner wins nothing, unless you actually find John Edwards, in which case we'll give you a reporting credit and you'll probably get an earful from his people.

Randall Terry delegate: +50

Keith Judd delegate: +100

Keith Judd: +911

—Phonetic transcript of Boston mayor Tom "Mumbles" Menino's speech: +30

—Bank of America execs cozying up to Democratic members of the House Committee on Financial Services: +25

—Official DNC literature rebranding Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium as "Panther Stadium": +5

Hologram Ronald Reagan: +50

—Hologram Saul Alinsky: +500

—RNC Chair Reince Priebus, crashing a party: +10

—Empty chair: +1

—Delegate posing with empty chair: +20

—Cher, looking empty: +50

—A homeless person who hasn't been forcibly relocated from downtown: +10

—A Scientologist trying to convert an Occupy protester: +5

—Newark Mayor Cory Booker: +10; with superhero cape: +100

—Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, looking lost: +5

—San Antonio's 35-year-old mayor and keynote speaker Julian Castro: +5

—San Antonio's 35-year-old congressman-elect Joaquin Castro: +5

—Reporter inadvertently interviewing Joaquin under the impression he's identical twin Julian: +15

—Box of M&Ms with official presidential seal: +50

—Box of Nicorette gum with official presidential seal: +150

—Party that serves recently declassified White House beer recipe, a.k.a. "Swill List": +20

"Kill List": +1,000

—Code Pink members protesting drones: +5; while being monitored by Charlotte Police Department drone: +35

Faded Obama poster: +10; with twentysomething staring at it blankly: +20

—Conservative saboteur James O'Keefe: +5; dressed like an imam: +50; dressed like Iman: +100

—John Edwards: +200

—Biden!: +1; cruising around town in a freshly-washed Trans-Am: +101

—"Green" event sponsored by oil or natural gas company: +5 (up to 10)

—Event with union bosses catered by nonunion workers: +20

Union bosses, period: +5 (up to 10)

—Drake, in character: +10

Wayne Knight, in character: +50

—Kal Penn, in character: +100

—Use of term "game changer" to describe an ultimately meaningless speech: +1 (up to 100)

—Lawmaker-turned-lobbyist, talking to lawmakers: +10 (up to 10)

—Delegate with donkey on top of hat: +2 (up to 10)

—Delegate with dog on top of hat, à la Seamus Romney: +20

—Actual donkey: +20

—Hologram Seamus Romney: +400

—SOROOOOOOOS! +1,000

—Michael Jordan: Game Over