Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
One way to understand what a presidential candidate might do if elected is to look at his advisers. Here are nine advisers who are shaping Mitt Romney's views—and could end up shaping his presidency. You may not have heard of them, but you should know about them.
Position: Foreign Policy Adviser
His Qualifications: Black was head of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center when Al Qaeda brought down the towers and is a former executive for the "private security" company Blackwater.
What You Need to Know: Black has long been associated with the Bush administration’s "dark side," including torture and extraordinary rendition. He's also a fan of colorful speech, having said that he wanted to "Capture Bin Laden, kill him, and bring his head back in a box on dry ice." That didn't happen, but a 2005 CIA inspector general's report did chastise the CTC for not sharing information with other agencies that could have led to the discovery of the 9/11 plot before it occurred.
Position: Foreign Policy Adviser
His Qualifications: Phares has worked as a professor, counterterrorism adviser, author, and pundit for Fox News.
What You Need to Know: As Mother Jones first reported last year, Phares "was a high ranking political official in a sectarian religious militia responsible for massacres during Lebanon's brutal, 15-year civil war." Phares has tried to downplay his involvement in this messy war (which resulted in more than 100,000 fatalities) but according to Régina Sneifer, who served in the Lebenese Forces' Fifth Bureau, "Mr. Phares was aware of the crimes of Samir Geagea [a ruthless militia leader] and he was still close to him."
Position: Judicial Adviser
What You Need to Know: Bork, then solicitor general, agreed to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who was close to cracking open Watergate. (Bork's colleagues, Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, had refused to fire Cox and resigned on principle.) Ted Kennedy later said that "Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids [and] schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution." Bork has also proposed reducing the scope of the 14th Amendment, and says it's "silly" to think: "Gee, [women are] discriminated against and we need to do something about it."
Position: Immigration Adviser
His Qualifications: Kobach is the secretary of state for Kansas.
What You Need to Know: Kobach is the intellectual architect behind harsh Arizona-style immigration laws all over the country. Kobach has flirted with birtherism and even sought to abolish birthright citizenship. But illegal immigration isn't Kobach's only hobby horse: At the GOP convention, he dipped his toe into Shariah panic by urging the adoption of an anti-Shariah plank to the GOP platform.
Position: Domestic Policy Adviser/Vice Presidential Candidate
His Qualifications: Ryan is a Republican congressman from Wisconsin and the chairman of the House Budget Committee.
What You Need to Know: Technically he's the veep pick, but in choosing Ryan, Romney tied himself to Ryan's policy agenda. In the past, that agenda has included turning Medicare into a voucher system so that seniors have to pay more for their health care, slashing Medicaid so that states have less money to cover medical services for the poor, old, and disabled, and all while cutting taxes on the wealthy. Where does Ryan's plan make up that extra revenue? In part by raising taxes on the poor. There's no one on Romney's team who embodies the "half the country are moochers" mindset expressed by Romney on that 47 percent video more than Ryan does.