Mojo - September 2012

Comedy Central Reveals Obama's True Feelings About Romney's "47 Percent" Video

| Thu Sep. 20, 2012 4:15 PM EDT

On Comedy Central's Key & Peele Wednesday, Obama (Jordan Peele) and his "Anger Translator" Luther (Keegan-Michael Key) reacted to Mother Jones' release of the videos from a private Romney fundraiser.

Obama, in deadpan professorial mode, says Romney "raise[d] questions about the fairness of our tax code." Luther screams: "Did you say that half the country doesn't pay income taxes? What about you, Mitt? What about you though? Did you pay income taxes? I mean, I don't know because a brother ain't seen nothin yet! You know what I'm sayin'? Can you give us a little peak?"

Later, talking about the unrest in the Arab world, and the need for diplomacy and honest dialogue, Obama says, "In these tumultuous times, clear communication is our best ally." Translation? "Yeah, that and Mother Jones releasin' a video of your dumb ass, Mitt! Yeah, I ball so hard motherf*ckers wanna fine me!"

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Obama Official Says No Evidence Gitmo Detainee Behind Benghazi Attack

| Thu Sep. 20, 2012 4:02 PM EDT
Christopher Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya, was killed in Benghazi earlier this month.

The Obama administration is pushing back on a Fox News report that the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador to J. Christopher Stevens. was lead by former Gitmo detainee.

Fox News reported Wednesday that, "U.S. intelligence sources say Sufyan Ben Qumu may be behind the attacks." Qumu was transferred into Libyan custody in 2007. His detention file describes him as a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and a "probable member of al Qaeda."

But a US national security official tells Mother Jones that "that report is wrong, there's no intelligence suggesting that he was leading the attack on the consulate that evening." The official insisted there was no evidence that Qumu "directed, coordinated, or planned" the attack. 

The administration has come under fire, particularly from Republicans, for saying it does not yet have evidence the attack on the US consulate, which occurred on the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, was preplanned. Testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee yesterday, Matthew G. Olsen, the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, said that "a number of different elements are thought to be involved in this attack, including individuals involved in militant groups that are prominent in the Benghazi area," but that "there was no specific intelligence regarding an imminent attack prior to September 11th on our post in Benghazi." 

Whether or not there was intelligence warning of an imminent attack, Republicans have balked at the administration's statements saying the attack may not have been planned in advance, in part because Libyan officials have said local security forces may have been involved. During the hearing, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) expressed skepticism at the idea the attack was not premeditated. "I just don’t think people come to protests with [rocket-propelled grenades] and other heavy weapons," Collins said. 

Former Bush-era Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tweeted the Fox News article Thursday, calling it "A sad reminder of why Guantanamo was - and remains - necessary to keep terrorists from killing Americans." 

The extent to which intelligence or security failures lead to the ambush at the embassy is still unclear, but Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin reports that the State Department will convene a bipartisan panel to investigate both the Libya attack and attacks on US embassies in Egypt and Yemen.

Corn on DemocracyNow!: The Backstory to Our Romney Fundraiser Video

Thu Sep. 20, 2012 3:45 PM EDT

David Corn talks to DemocracyNow! about how he and James Carter IV, President Carter's grandson, got in touch with the video's source. He discusses his past reporting on Romney's dealings at Bain as well as how the Romney campaign is dealing with this latest bombshell. In Corn's words? "Trying to make llemonades from turds." 

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

Bachmann Ads Blast Stimulus, Tout Stimulus Projects

| Thu Sep. 20, 2012 2:45 PM EDT
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

Rep. Michele Bachmann is in trouble. Despite the fact that her newly redrawn Minnesota congressional district is even more conservative than it was when she was re-elected by 12 points two years ago, a recent internal poll shows the tea party icon leading Democratic hotel magnate Jim Graves by just two points. With that in mind, she's on the airwaves with her first television and radio ads of the cycle. The television spot is an extended dig at Graves' support for the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As the narrator puts it, "Big spendin' Jim supported the wasteful, trillion-dollar stimulus!"

The stimulus wasn't $1 trillion as the ad suggests; it was $831 billion. But that's not what's interesting. In a radio ad, Bachmann takes a much different approach. As Dump Bachmann points out, most of the ad's 60 seconds is spent discussing all of the awesome things that have been built in her district because of federal funding Bachmann helped secure. The kicker: Bachmann sought hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus funding for one of the projects she touts in her ad, and another project was completed thanks to an ARRA grant.

"Congressman Bachmann helped re-open the St. Cloud airport," one narrator says. "Working together with local leaders, Michele helped save the airport and keep our area open for business and commerce." The St. Cloud airport, which had been shuttered for a few years after a major carrier left, did reopen for commercial flights in 2012. But it had some help from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Bachmann voted against and knocks Graves for supporting. As the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, a conservative group, noted, "St. Cloud received $750,000 in federal stimulus funding to assist with a portion of the renovation..." With Bachmann's help, it received another $750,000 through a Small Community Air Service Development Program grant—this despite being panned as wasteful by conservatives in Bachmann's own state.

Bachmann's signature legislative accomplishment, which is likewise touted in the ad, is the congressional authorization of a new bridge connecting her hometown of Stillwater to Houlton, Wisconsin, pop. 386. (Critics have compared the proposed bridge to the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," noting that Stillwater and Houlton are already connected by a bridge, and there's an interstate bridge 10 minutes south.) As the ad puts it, "Michele worked with both parties to cut Washington's red tape to build the new St. Croix bridge. Once built, Michele will have helped every person using the bridge to get to work and to school and to get home." Bachmann sought $300 million in federal stimulus funding for the the new bridge, which has a $700 million price tag. The project was one of six projects Bachmann wrote to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to request funding for (her request was denied).

But lest you think Bachmann has undergone some sort of miracle transformation, here's an excerpt from a fundraising email she just blasted out:

In 10 days, we must close our financial books and report our fundraising numbers and, unfortunately, we are still short of our fundraising goals by more than $376,000. This is a deficit that we MUST overcome—in the face of senseless attacks from a ruthless opponent, we can't afford to leave any stone unturned.

Senseless!

7 Highlights You Missed From the Romney Video

| Thu Sep. 20, 2012 2:23 PM EDT
Romney speaking in Los Angeles on September 17

By now you've probably heard about the secret video we published exposing a bunch of real talk from Mitt Romney as he dined with rich Republican donors. But the hour-plus footage, which left the Romney campaign reeling and provoked a full-blown eruption of "chaos on Bullshit Mountain," is a real embarrassment of riches, as it were. Here are some telling moments that you may not have seen yet from Romney's unvarnished Q&A behind closed doors at the $50,000-per-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton on May 17:

  • Mocking immigration in the United States: "I'd like to staple a green card to every Ph.D. in the world and say, 'Come to America, we want you here.' Instead, we make it hard for people who get educated here or elsewhere to make this their home. Unless, of course, you have no skill or experience, in which case you're welcome to cross the border and stay here for the rest of your life."
  • Pondering how he'd exploit a pre-election foreign policy crisis: "…in the Jimmy Carter election, the fact that we have hostages in Iran, I mean, that was all we talked about. And we had the two helicopters crash in the desert, I mean that's—that was—that was the focus, and so [Reagan] solving that made all the difference in the world. I'm afraid today if you said, 'We got Iran to agree to stand down a nuclear weapon,' they'd go hold on. It's really a, but…by the way, if something of that nature presents itself, I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity."
  • Falsely claiming that the Fed is buying "three-quarters" of America's debt: "Yeah, it's interesting…the former head of Goldman Sachs, John Whitehead, was also the former head of the New York Federal Reserve. And I met with him, and he said as soon as the Fed stops buying all the debt that we're issuing—which they've been doing, the Fed's buying like three-quarters of the debt that America issues. He said, once that's over, he said we're going to have a failed Treasury auction, interest rates are going to have to go up."
  • Predicting easy dividends from his anticipated election victory: "…if we win on November 6th there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We'll see capital come back, and we'll see—without actually doing anything—we'll actually get a boost in the economy."
  • Cracking jokes about Latino voters and Elizabeth Warren: "And had [my dad] been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this…[Donor: "Pull an Elizabeth Warren!"]…That's right I could go out and say—for those who don't know Elizabeth Warren, she is the woman who's running for US Senate in Massachusetts who says that she is Cherokee…"
  • Making enemies on the late-night talk show circuit: "I've done the night, the evening shows. I've been on Letterman a couple of times. I've been on Leno more than a couple times, and now Letterman hates me because I've been on Leno more than him." (Untrue, says Dave.)
  • Joking about media strategy and his reputation as a "rich, rich guy": "You know that I'm as poor as a church mouse."

The GOP candidate's biggest moments, which we first exposed in our exclusive coverage:

  • On the 47 percent of Americans he regards as moochers: "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
  • On the "almost unthinkable" prospects for Mideast peace: "And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there's just no way."

Romney's closing line that night, with regard to campaigning and fundraising, seemed fitting. It was a veritable let-us-eat-cake moment: "One of the benefits I get is eating the world's best dessert, which I will. [Audience laughs.] Thank you. [Applause.]"

Read the full transcript here, and watch the full video here.

Update: As several readers have pointed out, also noteworthy was Romney recounting the time he traveled with Bain Capital to buy a factory in China that employed "about 20,000" young women.

Memo to Chuck Todd: There Is No Missing Context

| Thu Sep. 20, 2012 2:05 PM EDT

I like Chuck Todd, but he missed the mark this morning when he tweeted:

Guess what politics needs now: instant replay reviews. Both Romney and Obama had their leaked videos missing important context

Immediately folks on Twitter, including yours truly, challenged Todd to specify what he meant regarding the Romney video. (The recently disseminated Obama video showed the president in 1998 supporting "redistribution at a certain level," but it left out the next sentence in which he talked about the need for fostering competition in the marketplace.) Todd later clarified his tweet a bit: "The only missing Romney context to video I was referring to was on his Mideast remarks. Doesn't disqualify tape itself folks." And he referred to an item in NBC News' First Read tip sheet that noted, "Republicans yesterday jumped all over a Politico piece, noting that a portion of Romney's comments in that Mother Jones video on Middle East peace (where Romney acknowledges that there could eventually be peace) had been omitted." First Read noted that the absence of these few sentences did not "negate what Romney also said about the Middle East (that Palestinians don't have an interest in peace and that a two-state solution isn't feasible)," but it added that the "whole story" wasn't told.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 20, 2012

Thu Sep. 20, 2012 12:42 PM EDT

From left, Pfc. Michael Weymouth and Sgt. Christopher Ouzts, engineers with the 569th Engineer Company, Fort Carson, Colo., provide dismounted security for Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Myers while clearing a hill of IED threats in the district of Takhteh Pol, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Sept. 7, 2012. Photo: US Army.

"Chaos on Bullshit Mountain": Jon Stewart Lampoons Fox News Response to Romney Videos

| Thu Sep. 20, 2012 10:24 AM EDT

On Wednesday night's episode of The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart discusses Fox News' response to the Romney fundraiser video—a reaction he calls the "chaos on Bullshit Mountain."

Stewart mocks the news channel's multifaceted spin on the issue, particularly the conclusion that the leaked "47 percent" footage contained hard-hitting truths that will ultimately help the Republican candidate win.

"It's like Romney jazz! It's the words you don't hear [that matter]," Stewart said, lampooning Fox talking heads' claims about what Romney "actually" meant to say.

 

In States With GOP-Dominated Courts, Is Judicial Election Spending Pointless?

| Thu Sep. 20, 2012 5:01 AM EDT

Judicial elections are kind of under the radar, but some 39 states hold elections to fill their courts—elections that are in no way exempt from the pay-to-play rules of the Citizens era. Judicial candidates spent a record $4.6 million on TV ads this election season, more than quadruple the spending two years ago.

But a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice and the Justice at Stake Campaign suggests that isn't the whole story. Two states, Alabama and Ohio, have actually seen a big drop-off in spending. Why? Because Republicans in these big-spender states fundraised so well in recent years that they succeeded in dominating the state supreme courts. "Money and special interests continue to transform judicial elections around the country," Alicia Bannon, counsel in the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said in a press release. "We are seeing uncontested races in traditionally high-spending states like Ohio and Alabama, where big money over the past decade delivered the high court to a single party."

To Match Walton Heirs' Fortune, You'd Need to Work at Walmart for 7 Million Years

| Thu Sep. 20, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

Just how rich are the Waltons? According to the latest edition of the Forbes 400, released yesterday, the six wealthiest heirs to the Walmart empire are together worth a staggering $115 billion. This marks the first time in American history that one family has controlled a 12-figure fortune. While the nation's richest person is still Bill Gates, the sixth-, seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-richest Americans are all Waltons.

To put that in perspective, here's a chart of things the Waltons could afford to pay for:

Sources: Center on Budget Policy Priorities, CNN, Los Angeles Times, Congressional Budget Office

The Waltons' fortune might be something to celebrate if not for the fact that they've raked it in at our expense. Sasha Abramsky writes:

In 2004, a year in which Wal-Mart reported $9.1 billion in profits, the retailer's California employees collected $86 million in public assistance, according to researchers at the University of California-Berkeley. Other studies have revealed widespread use of publicly funded health care by Wal-Mart employees in numerous states. In 2004, Democratic staffers of the House education and workforce committee calculated that each 200-employee Wal-Mart store costs taxpayers an average of more than $400,000 a year, based on entitlements ranging from energy-assistance grants to Medicaid to food stamps to WIC—the federal program that provides food to low-income women with children.

The average Walmart worker earns just $8.81 an hour. At that wage, the union-backed Making Change at Walmart campaign calculates that a Walmart worker would need:

  • 7 million years to earn as much wealth as the Walton family has (presuming the worker doesn't spend anything)
  • 170,000 years to earn as much money as the Walton family receives annually in Walmart dividends
  • 1 year to earn as much money as the Walton family earns in Walmart dividends every three minutes

For more on the Walton fortune, see my 2011 chart: "6 Walmart Heirs Hold More Wealth Than 42% of Americans Combined"