Mojo - September 2012

GOP to Jobless Vets: Drop Dead

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 11:19 PM EDT

As if to underscore Mitt Romney's indifference to the 47 percent, his Republican Party colleagues in the US Senate used a procedural vote Wednesday to block a $1 billion bipartisan bill that would have given tens of thousands of jobless military vets the opportunity to work.

Inspired by President Obama's State of the Union Address challenge to get veterans working, the Veterans Job Corps bill would have created a program to fast-track 20,000 former service members into federal jobs as law enforcement officers, first responders, and parks workers. The legislation "was one of the few pieces of legislation [to] make it through Congress, which has been mired in partisan gridlock for the last two years," reports Stars & Stripes' Leo Shane. A few enthusiastic Republicans even added several provisions to the bill, including measures to increase internet access for job-seeking vets and to aid them in their transitions from military life. "Once it incorporated ideas from both sides of the aisle, I thought it would be an easy sell," Tom Tarantino, a war vets' lobbyist, told the Washington Post Wednesday.

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Corn on "The Kudlow Report": The Supposedly "Missing" 2 Minutes of the Romney Video

Wed Sep. 19, 2012 8:12 PM EDT

CNBC's Larry Kudlow gets it wrong trying to defend the Romney videos, and David Corn tells him so. The video's backstory and the "missing" two minutes are explained in the clip below. And the Romney campaign's claim to have debunked the video? Debunked


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

Romney's Video-Debunking Claim Is…Debunked

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 7:00 PM EDT

This is getting ridiculous.

After Mother Jones posted video of Mitt Romney sharing remarks with millionaire donors that he would never express to voters—noting that nearly half of the American electorate are moochers and that Romney doesn't believe a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is feasible—Romney did not deny he said what he said. As the cliché goes, he doubled down, saying his remarks were inelegant but a reflection of his views about the rapid growth of entitlement programs in the United States. (Actually, this was a bait-and-switch operation. Romney was not talking policy when he disdainfully described half of the citizenry as parasites and victims.)

On Wednesday afternoon, he went further, with his campaign claiming that the video had been "debunked." In lashing out at the Obama campaign, Romney's crew issued this email:

Today, The Obama Campaign Leveled False Attacks Against Mitt Romney Based On A Debunked And Selectively Edited Video:

Today, Obama Campaign Spokesperson Ben LaBolt Attacked Mitt Romney Based On A Debunked Mother Jones Tape. OBAMA CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN BEN LABOLT: "You heard on the tapes released this week that it's Mitt Romney who would walk away from the peace process." (MSNBC, 9/19/12)

But This Morning, Politico Reported That The Mother Jones Video Was Selectively Edited To Give A False Impression About Mitt Romney’s Views On The Middle East Peace Process. "But the clip initially provided by Mother Jones does not include that part of his remarks, and therefore was not reported by the aforementioned news outlets. Romney's complete remarks about the Mideast peace process were included in the complete video Mother Jones published Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after it released clips from the fundraiser. But the clip posted to the Mother Jones website, which was cited by the national media, cuts out the excerpt in which Romney says that 'American strength, American resolve' will cause the Palestinians to 'some day reach the point where they want peace more than we're trying to force peace on them.'" (Dylan Byers, "Technically, Romney Said Peace Was Possible," Politico, 9/19/12)

The Romney campaign was clearly implying the whole video was rubbish. But there's a slight problem. Politico's Dylan Byers, the source for the debunking charge, quickly noted that he had done no such thing. He wrote:

there is nothing in my report that "debunks" the video.

In his article, posted earlier in the day, Byers had noted how some folks were complaining that we had edited a long clip of Romney talking about the Middle East selectively. In that clip—watch it here—Romney trashed the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, said the Palestinians (whom he lumped into one mindset) did not want peace and only sought the destruction of Israel, that he would not actively pursue the peace process and would instead seek to "kick the ball down the field," and that he had paid no real attention when a former secretary of state had told him that peace might be possible in the Middle East.

That is a total diss of the peace process—and would represent a radical break with US policy, which has supported a two-state solution since the Clinton years.

Yet Romney went on to say—and this clip did not include this—that if the United States showed "resolve….the Palestinians will some day reach the point where they want peace more than we're trying to force peace on them." Thus, peace might be theoretically possible at some point in the distance.

This was not a case of selective editing. The point was to show what was newsworthy: Romney breaking with current policy and stating views that he has not stated publicly. (In an interview this summer, he said he supported a two-state solution.) Nevertheless, some Romney backers have cried foul and managed to turn this into a dispute they can use to raise questions about the secret Romney tape.

But don't take my word. Here's more from Byers:

More mysterious still, is why the Romney campaign wants to debunk a video containing remarks that the candidate doubled-down on in a follow-up press conference.

Slate's Dave Weigel has weighed in as well:

By calling the whole tape "debunked" and "selectively edited," the campaign's hewing closer to the Breitbart.com argument -- the real story is liberal media-Obama collusion. And the result is a sort of paradox, in which Romney stands by what he said in a video that you can't trust.

It was bizarre. After Byers and Weigel had debunked the Romney camp's debunking, Byers heard from a Romney aide who said that the campaign only takes issue with the clip regarding Romney's view on the Mideast, not the entire video.

In other words, the Romney campaign walked back the push-back. It's not challenging the "47 percent" material or anything else; only the Mideast remarks. But, as I've said a few thousand times on television these past few days, the wonderful thing about this story is that people can view for themselves. Watch Romney talking about the Mideast, and it's clear he has contempt for the peace process as it has been conceived for years; does not believe it can work; and would chart a radically different course. The few sentences not included in that clip—but which were included in the full transcript and complete tape we released—do not a debunking make. This maneuver smacks of desperation from a campaign hurt by the undeniable words of its candidate.

Corn on MSNBC: Romney Digs Himself Into a Hole With Class Conflict

Wed Sep. 19, 2012 5:21 PM EDT

Our DC Bureau Chief David Corn, who broke the story of the secret Romney fundraiser videos (full video, full transcript), discusses their political fallout with MSNBC's Martin Bashir. In the videos, Romney insults half the country while pandering to supporters at the $50,000 per plate dinner. Can he turn around the campaign around with the presidential debate in two weeks? 

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

Romney Cracks Warren Joke at Secret Fundraiser

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 1:17 PM EDT

Mitt Romney made light of his father's Mexican roots in a secretly recorded video in Florida, joking that if he were Latino, his path to 270 electoral votes would be a lot easier. But it turns out that the Mexican joke was just a lead-in to a riff about Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, the former Obama adviser and Harvard Law School professor who's taking on Sen. Scott Brown this fall. Warren, you may recall, found herself in a bit of trouble this spring when the Boston Herald reported that she had identified herself to her Harvard employers as Native American. Romney, speaking in May as the story was unraveling, had some fun at her expense:

ROMNEY: My dad you probably know was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company, but he was born in Mexico. And had he been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this, but he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico and he lived there for a number of years. I mean I say that jokingly, but it'd be helpful to be a Latino.

DONOR: Pull an Elizabeth Warren!

ROMNEY: 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, has put her application over the years that she is Cherokee, and Harvard put down that she's one of their minority faculty members. It turns out that at most that she's 1/32 Cherokee and even that can't be proven. So in any event, I can put down my dad was born in Mexico and leave it at that.

Watch:

 Warren and Brown will have their first debate on Thursday.

Romney Funder's Israeli Newspaper Buries Video Controversy

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 12:48 PM EDT

The Israeli press gave some attention Wednesday morning to Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief David Corn's reporting on the video of Mitt Romney at a closed fundraiser, and understandably so: The tape caught the Republican presidential candidate saying that peace between Israelis and Palestinians was "unthinkable," and he would handle the issue by "kick[ing] the ball down the field." Popular tabloid Maariv (who called Mitt "big mouth") and the left-leaning newspaper Haaretz featured Romney's remarks prominently on their front pages. 

Israel's largest circulation newspaper, however, is the tabloid Israel HaYom, which is owned by Las Vegas Sands mogul Sheldon Adelson—who attended a fundraiser for Mitt Romney in Israel over the summer and has given $10 million to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore our Future. Israel Hayom tucked a teaser about the Romney video (focused on the "47 percent" remarksin the corner of its front page and buried the full story on page 23although it got some decent real estate there:

Israel HaYom is seen as very supportive of Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his right-wing Likud party. Israeli-American historian Gershom Gorenberg notes, however, that "[O]n the Palestinians, [Romney] has not actually parroted Netanyahu; he has placed himself to Netanyahu's right. The Israeli prime minister, after all, has at least paid lip service to a two-state agreement." Then again, lip service to the two state solution is exactly what Romney has provided in public, his just speaks differently in quiet rooms.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 19, 2012

Wed Sep. 19, 2012 12:40 PM EDT

Lance Cpl. Stephan DeJesus, a rifleman with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fires an M-16A4 service rifle during marksmanship training in Djibouti, Sep. 15, 2012.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael Petersheim.

VIDEO: Daily Show, Colbert Report Respond to Romney's 47 Percent Comments

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 12:01 PM EDT

President Barack Obama wasn't alone in responding to Mitt Romney's controversial "47 Percent" comments on Tuesday. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report weighed in on Mother Jones' scoop, too. Here's Stewart:

And here's Colbert (Highlight: "I hope to see you all later in the Russian f***pit."):

Crossroads, US Chamber, and Other Dark Money Groups Notch Big Court Win

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 11:14 AM EDT
Karl Rove.

Tuesday was a good day for Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the other dark-money groups spending tens of millions to oust President Obama and elect Republicans in the 2012 elections. A federal court reversed a lower court decision from March compelling 501(c)4 nonprofit groups to reveal their donors if they run certain types of TV or radio advertisements close to Election Day—namely, issue ads that mention a candidate without urging viewers to vote for or against the candidate. From now until Election Day, dark-money groups—the bulk of which support conservative-leaning causes—can fund any type of ad they want without needing to name who's ponying up for those ads.

To paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden: This is a big effing deal. Conservative nonprofits are among the biggest spenders in the 2012 election cycle. ProPublica reported in mid-August that just two such groups—Crossroads GPS and the Americans for Prosperity—had pumped $60 million into presidential TV ads. At the time, that was more than all super-PACs combined. Indeed, for all the attention paid to super-PACs, dark-money nonprofits are the bigger political players; in the 2010 elections, nonprofits outspent super-PACs by a 3-to-2 margin, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity and Center for Responsive Politics.

Tuesday's court ruling didn't completely rule out beefed-up disclosure for nonprofit groups, as the appeals court left the door open for the Federal Election Commission to revisit the disclosure rules. (That's unlikely, given the level of dysfunction over at the FEC.) But the decision dealt a stinging blow to pro-reform lawmakers and advocacy organizations that want the public to know who's funding dark-money outside groups. "The Court of Appeals' decision today will keep the American people, for the time being, in the dark about who is attempting to influence their vote with secret money," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who brought the suit to shine a light on dark money, said in a statement.

The Center for Individual Freedom, a dark money-funded group that fights disclosure laws at the state and federal level, hailed the decision. "CFIF believes that the right to engage in political speech should not be needlessly conditioned upon the loss of anonymity," a CFIF attorney told the Los Angeles Times. CFIF was one of two groups that appealed a lower court decision this spring that forcing nonprofits to reveal certain donors.

WATCH: On Letterman, Obama Addresses Romney 47% Comments

| Wed Sep. 19, 2012 10:44 AM EDT

President Barack Obama appeared on "Late Show With David Letterman" Tuesday night and responded to Mother Jones' release of Mitt Romney's controversial comments at a closed-door fundraiser. Here's what Obama said about Romney's claims about the 47 percent:

Well, I don't know what he was referring to, but I can tell you this. When I won in 2008, 47 percent of the American people voted for John McCain, they didn't vote for me. And what I said on election night was, even though you didn't vote for me, I hear your voices and I'm going to work as hard as I can to be your president. And one of the things I’ve learned as president is you represent the entire country. And when I meet Republicans as I'm traveling around the country, they are hard working, family people, who care deeply about this country and my expectation is that if you want to be president you got to work for everybody not just for some.