American Politics May Be Nasty But They Started It
At some point, however, using the bad actions of the past to justify worse actions in the present has to stop.
WaPo’s Dana Milbank, responding to the Dan Balz column that sparked yesterday’s posting on “Why 2012 Is So Nasty And Likely to Get Nastier,”declares:
Forgive me, but I’m not prepared to join this walk down Great Umbrage Street just yet. Yes, it’s ugly out there. But is this worse than four years ago, when Obama was accused by the GOP vice presidential nominee of “palling around with terrorists”? Or eight years ago, when Democratic nominee John Kerry was accused of falsifying his Vietnam War record?
Yes, it’s actually worse than that—bad as it was. The links between Obama and former Weatherman William Ayers were tenuous and decades removed from whatever radicalism Ayers might have engaged in—but there was at least a veneer of truth in the smear. And the Swift Boat idiots were a fringe group; they weren’t run by a former Bush spokesman. Now, though, we’ve got the Obama administration signing off on an ad insinuating that Mitt Romney killed a woman and the vice president refusing to back away from the suggestion that Romney wants to put black people back in chains. So, yeah, I’d say it’s worse than four or eight years ago.
What’s different this time is that the Democrats are employing the same harsh tactics that have been used against them for so long, with so much success. They have ceased their traditional response of assuming the fetal position when attacked, and Obama’s campaign is giving as good as it gets — and then some.
Balz is correct when he observes that the “most striking” element of the campaign is “the sense that all restraints are gone, the guardrails have disappeared and there is no incentive for anyone to hold back.” In large part, this is because the Democrats are no longer simply whining about the other side being reckless and unfair: They are being reckless and unfair themselves.
The notion that Democrats haven’t been willing to be “reckless and unfair” before now is patently absurd. Hell, they ran the most infamous negative ad of all time in 1964, declaring that the Republican nominee would get everyone killed in a nuclear war. The 2000 campaign featured an NAACP ad that equated then-Governor Bush’s veto of a hate crimes bill with dragging an innocent black man to his death behind a pick-up truck.
Obama’s 2008 campaign was positively ruthless—and that was just the primary against Hillary Clinton. Alec MacGillis:
I think that all of us political reporters need to be careful not to overstate the contrast between the two campaigns. Yes, Team Obama just put out a tough ad attacking Mitt Romney for outsourcing jobs at Bain Capital and for his Swiss bank account. But let’s not forget—they were putting out some pretty tough, and arguably unfair, ads and mailings back in 2008, as well. They hammered Hillary Clinton for requiring that everyone buy health insurance or pay a penalty (wait, isn’t that…yeah) and over her support for the passage of NAFTA during her husband’s administration, attacks that provoked a memorable tirade from her (“shame on you, Barack Obama!”). During the general election, Obama went after John McCain for supporting a huge tax increase—McCain’s proposal to replace the tax exemption for employer-provided health care with a new tax provision that would make health insurance partly deductible for all taxpayers, including those who buy health insurance for themselves. The plan had major flaws, but Obama’s attack seriously distorted it, and a limited version of McCain’s idea—cutting back on the tax preference for employer-provided insurance—has also made it into Obama’s health care law, in the form of a tax on high-priced employer-provided health plans. All told, tallies after the 2008 campaign found that at least two-thirds of Obama’s ads in the general election were negative attacks on McCain. So even in ’08, hope and change went only so far.
As John Sides, an Obama supporter notes, the notion that Obama’s campaign was mostly “Hope and Change” and “Yes, we can!” is belied by the facts. Indeed, it was often pointed out that Obama ran more negative ads than any presidential candidate in history although, as Glenn Kessler counters, that’s mostly because they had a record war chest and ran more ads, period, than any previous candidate. Still, more than two-thirds of Obama’s political ads were negative.
Looking through my writing portfolio this morning for something entirely different, I stumbled across an essay I wrote way back in January 2006 for the now-defunct TCS Daily that they headlined “The Triumph of ‘Angry and Stupid.’” In light of yesterday’s posting on “Why 2012 Is So Nasty And Likely to Get Nastier” and the lively commentary it’s engendered, a lengthy excerpt is in order:
The win at all cost mentality, which is more a function of the permanent campaign and the ever-increasing role of the federal government than anything Kos has done, is corrosive. There was a sense, as recently as the 1980s, that once the election was over, it was time to govern. Presidents who won elections were entitled to a honeymoon period and preparations for the next election were on the back burner. In recent years, though, the losing party immediately sought to undermine the legitimacy of the winner and brought out all the tools at their disposal to obstruct.
The win at all costs model, which is bipartisan, leads to politics being a sport where you merely root for whoever happens to be wearing the team colors at the moment. Ordinary voters are more likely to be turned off by the rancorous atmosphere and the core electorate will likely be more energized than ever to make sure that the “bad guys” lose.
Perhaps it’s a function of age and cynicism as much as actual change in climate, but this does strike me as genuinely recent. While I was a genuine enthusiast for Ronald Reagan and the Republicans when I was first seriously interested in politics, I never thought that Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, and Tip O’Neill — or even Mike Dukakis and Robert Byrd — were anything other than honorable men with whom I disagreed on some important issues of policy.
Indeed, I thought that way about Harry Reid until he took on the Chief Obstructionist mantle as Minority Leader. Now, it is rare for me to take a member of the Democratic leadership seriously. The presumption is that whatever comes out of their mouth is scripted for political advantage rather than motivated by genuine conviction.
The country would no doubt be better off if the debate returned to policy rather than politics. Sadly, there is no sign that’s about to happen.
The American political scene was vitriolic, indeed, those days. The George W. Bush administration was probably at its lowest point, just months after Hurricane Katrina and with the 2006 election, which would result in the Republicans getting “a whoopin’,” was underway. Kevin Drum, quoted in my piece, declared that “nearly the entire political blogosphere . . . tends to be far more a partisan wrecking crew than a genuine force for either progressive or conservative thought.”
As bad as it was then, though, I genuinely believe it’s gotten worse rather than better. The blogosphere is nastier than it was then. Twitter was a few months away from launch and years away from being a 24/7/365 food fight that it would become. (That’s not to say that fruitful conversations can’t be had on both blogs and Twitter; I have them all the time. But doing so requires more careful curation that it did a few years ago.)
The Democrats, frustrated with their inability to knock of Bush in 2004, decided that they’d thwart him at every turn. The began using the tools of the Senate to obstruct at an unprecedented pace. That pace only increased after gaining control of both Houses of Congress in November 2006.
As bad as Bush Derangement Syndrome was, though, Obama Derangement Syndrome is much worse. While Democrats were bitter over the way Bush won in 2000 and some even charged that 2004 was stolen, too, there was at least no question that Bush was an American citizen.
As bad as Harry Reid was in opposition, the Republicans are even worse now. While Reid and company did their best to deny Bush controversial appointments, McConnell and company took it up several notches, baldly declaring that their top legislative priority was keeping Obama from getting re-elected. Not just in the election year, mind you—but for Obama’s whole term. Oh, and the country just happened to be in the worst economic crisis in generations.
I don’t know where it all began. Many on my side of the aisle date it to the vitriolic hearings over Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court back in 1986. But I’m sure Democrats can point to really vicious examples that predate the Bork controversy. Regardless, each milestone tends to be used as a lodestar, justifying retribution in kind and then some.
And, while I reject as absurd Milbank’s premise that Democrats have been playing clean up until now while the mean old Republicans have used every underhanded trick in the book, I do think it’s fair to say that Republicans bear the lion’s share of the blame for the escalation in rhetoric in recent years. The fact of the matter is that, while conservatives have won most of the battles of the 1980s and forced the Democrats to become more centrist on taxation, military spending, and other issues they’ve lost the “religious war” that Pat Buchanan infamously talked about in 1992.
The Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters who were an entertaining fringe when I started OTB nearly a decade ago are now mainstream. The notion that Democrats and people living in big cities aren’t really “American” in the same way as country folk, long a rhetorical trope used to rally the base, actually seems to be taken literally by far too many. Bill Clinton was never embraced as legitimate by too many Republicans but it’s been taken to a whole new level under Obama. And, while race doubtless plays a role in that, I think it’s mostly just a function of how much more vitriolic the climate has become.
At some point, however, using the bad actions of the past to justify worse actions in the present has to stop. The rules say somebody is going to win this thing come November 6 and somebody is going to be president come noon next January 20. I don’t see how he can possibly govern if half the country sees him as something other than the legitimately elected president and members of the opposition party in the Senate decide that their chief priority is getting the White House back four years hence.
So what’s the answer? Democrats should just give up the fight? Take the high road, the way Kerry did with the swif boaters? How did that work out again?
Frankly, I find one significant error in your well-written post that undercuts everything you say: Its not that the Dems are responding harshly because of Republican acts in the past. They’re responding to what the Rs are doing right now. The only options I see are try to be above it — and again, we’ve seen how well that works — or dive in the mud with them.
So what’s plan C?
What WR said. Should Democrats unilaterally disarm and hope that the GOP follows? Or should the Republicans? What’s the upside for either of them? Politics will be nasty as long as not being nasty equals losing. There’s no sign that is going to change.
We’ve been coming to this point since Nixon organized CREEP (look it up). As for the ’64 TV ad? I remember it. It was brilliant, about the last time the Democratic party showed any spine.
Yeah. Nixon. (Or maybe it was when Aaron Burr became the first of only two Vice Presidents to ever shoot someone in the face).
Your examples of dems playing foul are an ad from 58 years ago, an ad from 12 years ago and Obama, who is running now. Yes, Obama is politically ruthless, one of the things I like about him. He runs a campaign every bit as nasty and tough at the repubs do. That is why he wins.
This is the world we live in. You are right to condemn it but it anyone who runs for prez this days KNOWS this is how it will have to be if you want to win.
The good news? It is generational which means it will end. Look at Limbaugh’s audience, average age 60. Look at the age of the people providing the big money. This group is the same group that has been screaming at each other for over 50 years. They will never stop until the day they die, which given their age, will not be long now.
The people younger than the boomers hate this crap, actually lots of boomers hate it also. At some point, the dirt will no longer work because the voters wont respond to it. Maybe it will be this year, maybe it will be 2014 or 2016 or (I really hope not) 2020 but its coming. Until then, every election will be worse than the one before.
Who’s tripe was eagerly embraced on the right by millions of Republicans. As birtherism has been. This is mainstream GOP thought.
“Both sides do it” …… again? If one side does something 95 times, and the other side 5 times, it is true to say that “both sides do it,” however it is also close to meaningless, tells you nothing, and is the observational equivalent of empty calories.
The fact is the Republican Party has been pounding the Democratic Party in national campaign after campaign since 1968, and with the obvious exception of Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party has not lashed out and fought back. They’ve been patsies.
Now that the Democratic Party has finally begun to stand in and trade punches, it seems that Republicans are offended. Well I’m really very sorry if Republicans are offended that they’re finally getting a taste of what they’ve been dishing out for the past 40 plus years.
Oh please, James. You sat through decades of the bullshit the Repubs have pushed, up to and including 2008 with all of the nonsense the GOP spewed and, only now that your candidate isn’t faring too well within the mudfight, you want to ask where and when will it end?
Suck it up and quit whining. The ride is only going to get rougher.
Thank you for pointing out that the Republicans have basically given up on governance as long as an other (Democrat, didn’t really have to be a black man but sure helped) even SHARES power within this country.
This is Winner-Takes-All to the Nth degree. Nearly every policy advocating by Republicans currently is now aimed at simply punishing (poor) Democratic voters, making life miserable for them economically, and making them illegitimate even if elected. Distracts and states have been gerrymandered into oblivion along racial lines, and Washington is full of self-interested parasites who just want a share of the feasting.
Now the safety net and wages and healthcare MUST be shredded because it’s fiscally unsolvable and unfeasible and by the way ignore the record profits of banks and corporations that we don’t even know actually do, nothing to see here, things are just more efficient by golly thanks to technology and no regulation! What a coinky-dink! H’yuk!
Nearly half of the GOP believes the President is Muslim.
“At some point, however, using the bad actions of the past to justify worse actions in the present has to stop. The rules say somebody is going to win this thing come November 6 and somebody is going to be president come noon next January 20. I don’t see how he can possibly govern if half the country sees him as something other than the legitimately elected president and members of the opposition party in the Senate decide that their chief priority is getting the White House back four years hence.”
In addition to what wr and KariQ said, Bush the Younger got a far more deferential and longer honeymoon than Obama or Clinton did, in spite of having won far less decisively than either of them did (to say the least). No serious attempt was made to be obstructive for obstruction’s sake before 9/11, and indeed Bush got most of his agenda passed, in spite of far smaller majorities in both Houses of Congress than either Clinton or Obama in their first years. And of course, after 9/11, everyone was massively deferential to the President, until the Republicans started using national security to attack Democrats in the 2002 election runup.
While I appreciate you acknowledging that the Republicans have done the lion’s share of the escalation in the recent past, I think the answer will have to be each side calling its own side out when it goes over the line. And that’s something I see no one showing much courage to do.
Hmmmm…. Doesn’t look like today is going to be the day.
Well, we can start by revisiting Citizens United. I think future generations will see that as one of the most misguided Supreme Court decisions of all time, right up there with Plessy v . Ferguson and Dred Scott. Citizens United didn’t start the fire, but it opened a gasoline pipeline to the fire and made it impossible to control.
Failing that, we could at least pass disclosure laws so we could know which donors are behind what ads. Anonymity is really the enemy of decency in discourse.
Failing these two actions, I really see no other options. The Republicans have shown repeatedly that these tactics work, and the Democrats simply decided to respond in kind. I would say that even now the Republican campaign is meaner and more dishonest than anything the Democrats are doing.
“Or maybe it was when Aaron Burr became the first of only two Vice Presidents to ever shoot someone in the face”
No — Burr shot Hamilton in the body, as he died from damage to his internal organs, especially the liver.
@KariQ: and what wr says above. Should they both disarm? Sure, but they won’t. And, they can’t, because the other side won’t. So, given that this is the way the game is going to be played, then I cannot blame the democrats for playing the game the way it’s going to be played.
James said, “The country would no doubt be better off if the debate returned to policy rather than politics. Sadly, there is no sign that’s about to happen.” Yes. I agree 100%. Do I think it will happen soon? No, unfortunately. Especially not when Mitch McConnell lets us know his number one goal after Obama is elected is to make sure he’s a one term president. The senate minority leader comes right out and states he’s going to practice politics over policy. And then he and Orange Julius go about undermining any policy aimed at turning the economy around because they know that the voters will punish the incumbent for the bad economy.
And I’m sure we can show how evil the Democrats were during Bush’s presidency, and how evil the Republicans were during Clinton’s, and on and on.
Obama tried for the past three plus years to work with the Republicans to fix the economy and they told him go screw so they could label him a failure and call him divisive. So, he’s taken the gloves off. I’m ok with that.
A recent poll showed that over 50% of Republicans and conservatives believed Birther claims. Those people may be idiots, morons, and greaseballs, but they’re a majority of Republican voters and they’re definitely not a fringe group.
The Swift Boat Veterans for “Truth” allegations that Kerry lied about his military record and provided false statements to get medal honors. became a huge problem because Kerry refused to stand in and fight those slime.
Democrats have finally grown a spine and Republicans are outraged.
I find this whole thing to be hopelessly naive.
I’d encourage everyone who thinks politics are nasty now to go and visit the Lincoln Library in Springfield, where they have an entire room dedicated to the nastiness thrown his way during the campaigns and his presidency.
Burr’s dueling while Veep is mentioned above, and Charles Sumner was beated within an inch of his life on the floor of the Senate by a member of the House.
It is not the current vitriol that is the exception; it is the rule. Times like the 1950’s with heterogenous parties with broad consensus among the elites that do not match the opinions of either party’s voters are the exceptions. And they are exceptions because they are unsustainable in a functioning democracy.
We have what we deserve. The reason politics is this way is that we have structured the rewards to favor the behavior we see now. Same for the media. We can sit back and whine about it, or we can be the change we want to see.
Let’s not forget that the richest 400 Americans own more of this nation’s wealth than the bottom 150 million of us and, of those 400, 6 paid absolutely no federal income tax in 2009, 27 paid from zero to 10 percent of their adjusted gross incomes and another 89 paid between 10 and 15 percent. Yet we are supposed to believe the US has a spending problem and not a revenue problem.
It may seem like that’s what’s happening, but the justification for what Democrats are doing now is that they want to win.
The only reason past bad actions are being mentioned is to counter the criticism from Republicans, who are all too familiar with these tactics.
But that’s not some future possibility. We’ve had that since Obama was elected.
OK, just so we’re clear:
“Pallin’ around with terrorists!” has a veneer of truth.
“Bain bankrupted a company and caused the employees to lose their health care.” BEYOND THE PALE!!!!111!!!
Got it. Now can you please stop calling yourselves Libertarians or whatever?
I am not a big commenter here and others have framed most of my thoughts more eloquently than I could over the last few days, but there are two separate issues.
First, you are doing exactly what you have been complaining about in others; taking ads out of context and applying the worst possible intepretation with no regards to intent or meaning or even what actually happened. The Obama Administration, and even the campaign, have not signed off on anything and, as far as I know, have not even commented on the ad. It was a third party internet ad that could be easily interpreted as “Mitt Romney did not care about the lives he affected” rather than as “Mitt Romney killed someone”. The second instance is easily interpretted (and in context intended) as a class warfare statement, something the Republicans have been accused of semi-overtly (and in my opinion validly) for a while now. Biden was being blunter than is norm but making a valid charge against the current Republican Party. The racial aspect is just fever dreams of people wanting to take umbrage.
Second, until Romney, and his defenders and supporters, make some sort of acknowledgement and responsibility of their own short-comings regarding negative messaging and creatively interpretting opponent’s statements there is no credibility. The Republican Campaign has been relentlessly negative even while whining about the other side; It is a tad hypocritical.
A very good article in The Atlantic on what to do with political lies, especially the repeated political lie:
One solution: Boilerplate corrections, repeated every time the lie is covered:
Secondly, making the repeated lie the story:
Journalists can do only so much, though. Its the campaigns that will have to stop.
@Curtis: I agree that politics was more vicious in the very distant past. In the early days of the Republic, campaigns were conducted with no national media, only partisan organs. And, yes, we had the period up to and past the Civil War. Neither of those are periods to emulate. We had a much more civil political culture for most of the 20th Century.
@Facebones: That Obama was pals with Bill Ayers, who had been a member of a militant organization, was true. The surrounding insinuation was an absurd smear. But, yes, that smear pales in comparison with the notion that Mitt Romney killed a man’s wife and didn’t care.
@Moosebreath: Clinton really screwed himself when he came into office, with sheer amateurism. Starting off with gays in the military was just dumb, costing him support even in his own party. And HillaryCare was probably the right policy but handled so hamhandedly that it gave the Republicans the Congress two years later.
You know what would really help create a new tone in politics? If people calling for a new tone would stop telling lies like this:
Here are Biden’s actual comments:
I guess we can add metaphors to the list of things the authors of this website don’t understand.
But stating that Biden is running around saying Republicans want to put black people in chains is just a blatant despicable lie. And using it as proof as Democratic perfidy is just as deceitful. Lemme guess, you also thought Obama called Palin a pig in 2008…
We had it after Clinton was elected as well. Remember “they came in and trashed the place”?
@Moosebreath: I know, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a crappy joke!
Wut? It’s worse to suggest in a superPAC ad that a candidate doesn’t understand the hardships he put on folks by firing them & tearing up contracts / pensions vs having a member of the actual ticket basically smearing their opponent as a terrorist…? Interesting.
I’ll just skip the long litany of completely fabricated character assaults present in Romney’s standard stump speech and first party ads, as I ticked through them enough yesterday, and I’ll just focus on one thing:
Romney’s fundraising with Trump — after he’d so discredited himself as the Birther King, on the very same day Trump gave a bunch of interviews doubling down on Birtherism, racially attacking the president’s academic achievement and repeating his Ayers-ghost-writer BS — that by itself put Romney in the gutter so deep his complaints about unfair tactics should, for all time, ring hollow.
FLASHBACK: Excerpts from Romney’s Presidential announcement speech:
Yeah, the tone of the campaign has been so incredibly cordial up until now…
Shorter James: B-b-b-b-buh they’re no-no-not s’posed to hit back!
From paragraph 13:
I think that maybe what’s called “burying the lede”, JJ.
Mitt Romney’s lack of character has been on display for a while, has everyone forgotten this?
“If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and frankly I’d be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”
One thing the right wing noise machine is very good at is feigned outrage and misdirection.
With the “Understands” ad, they took the worst interpretation possible and then frothed at the mouth for days over how Romney was being accused of murder, while completely avoiding a discussion of whether Romney and Bain should be responsible for the lives ruined by plant closings on Bain’s watch. The MSM and Doug were totally misled by that.
With the Biden remark, the RWNM focused on a single phrase by Biden and said nothing about what would happen to the public if financial regulation was rolled back.
It would be great, frankly, if the press could point out when this misdirection is happening.
Seriously. True colors shown. Disappointing, but not surprising.
Um, what exactly was the veneer of truth in the smear? That Obama was acquainted with Bill Ayers? The fact that they were acquainted wasn’t the smear, the smear was the claim that Obama was “pallin’ aroun’ with terrorists!” And there’s simply no veneer of truth to that smear — it’s a damn lie, top to bottom.
Your memory of the first year of Clinton Administration seems to not include Whitewater, Vincent Foster’s suicide, unanimous Republican opposition to Clinton’s tax increase (which included such far-sighted comments as Phil Gramm’s statement that the increase will kill the economy stone dead — it’s a wonder he still has a reputation in Republican circles for knowing something about economics), and grandstanding over the Somalia forces put in by Bush the Elder
@Moosebreath to JJ:
Lest we forget.
@James Joyner: You appear to be operating under a very expansive definition of the word “pals.”
You see this is the problem right here. Clinton’s policy on gays in the military was the right thing to do and there is no doubt about that now. But then the Republicans crucified him over it for naked political gain.
Now James is saying Hilary care was the right policy even though it was MORE conservative than Obamacare.Did he say so then?
James, do you hear yourself? And then he wonders how we got to this point! Take a look at the man in the mirror, bro.
To the extent this campaign is particularly nasty, if it is, there is one simple thing upon which it can be blamed. Namely, that even in one of the worst economic situations ever faced by any incumbent President, the GOP and conservatism is largely unable to simple run on that economy because they’re become so crazed and dysfunctional as both a party and an ideology. If there’s ever been a time when Republicans could run a substantive, high minded campaign on the issues and win, it should be this election. That they can’t do so because they’re so damn f’d up is pretty amazing.
Does this mean it’s time for another joint fundraiser with Romney?
Umm, I know that this is a knitting blog and not a blog about US politics, so I wouldn’t have expected you to notice this, but these are exactly the conditions under which President Obama has already been governing since January 2009.
It’s people like you, giving cover to the nastiness and crudeness of the modern GOP, that has forced Dems to finally fight back.
And now that they’re fighting back, you say the vitriol is too much?
Really? Grow a spine. Better yet, look in the mirror.
Look at HilaryCare, more conservative than Obamacare, yet killed for partisan reasons. How many people have died since 1993 who might have been saved by comprehensive medical insurance reform at that time?
Look at Single Payer, once a Heritage Foundation proposal, being killed by the GOP, even though several high ranking GOP senators were on record for supporting it.
Look at how Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and Obama were treated by the GOP.
Look at how much of the GOP rhetoric is just veiled versions of “We gotta get that no good ni**er and his bitch wife out of the White House”.
You’re silent through most of that…. and now…
Dems have bought a bigger gun to the gunfight, and you’re full of vapors….?
As they say in my neighborhood… “Ni**er Please..”
Even the policy proposals from Romney and Ryan are incoherent, and supposedly they are policy / detail guys. Their current Medicare plans are pretty much a sad version of “who’s on first”
**Obama cut Medicare by $700b
**Obama won’t address Medicare spending
**Romney would sign Ryan’s budget (and Medicare cuts)
**We’re not cutting Medicare spending, but we’ll end the program
**Romney’s Medicare plan is different from Ryan’s
**Ryan’s proposal cut a different $700b from Medicare than Obama
**Romney’s Medicare plan is the same as Ryan’s
**Spending $700b more on Medicare doesn’t affect it’s finances
Each individual piece kind of makes sense by itself, but taken together it all becomes complete nonsense. Are there any policy Democratic proposals that are complete nonsense the way this is?
Regarding universal health care and that faint inducing ad about the gentleman whose wife died after being unable to get health care because there was a connection between Mitt, Bain, and that man losing his job – ACA is supposed to eliminate this by providing health insurance to all. No guarantee the woman doesn’t die, but at least she could have access to health care that might save her life. This is what the democrats want. They want to provide the opportunity for people like this to have access to health care that may save their life or possibly extend it. Mitt and Ryan are running on the platform that they do not want this for Americans. They want this woman to be denied access to health care if she cannot afford it or is unfortunate enough to lose that due to her or her husbands unemployment, regardless of whose fault it is. Obama wants everyone to have health care, Romney does not.
@James Joyner: ” Clinton really screwed himself when he came into office, with sheer amateurism.”
Sure, he made some mistakes. And then a leading Republican senator suggested that the president of the United States and commander in chief of the US armed forces had better not set foot on a military base in his state or he might be assassinated by a US soldier. And then Republican congressmen publicly accused him of cocaine smuggling and murder.
You know, Jimmy Carter made some mistakes, too. And for that he was called a bad president and eventually defeated when he ran for a second term.
He wasn’t accused of murder or threatened with assassination by leading Republican politicians.
So I’m sorry, but the notion that Clinton deserved this disgusting treatment — not from bloggers, but from leaders in the government — because he made a couple of political mistakes in office is beneath contempt, and actually completely undercts the point you say you’re trying to make here.
Both sides do it — Democrats aren’t always perfect and Republicans accuse them of murder. Perfect equivalence.
“That Obama was pals with Bill Ayers, who had been a member of a militant organization, was true. The surrounding insinuation was an absurd smear. But, yes, that smear pales in comparison with the notion that Mitt Romney killed a man’s wife and didn’t care.”
The whole point of this was to link Obama with someone who wanted to kill Americans. Not much different than the PAC ad. I think you are much better off just noting that both sides are very negative, but if you look at our campaign history, it has always been that way.
He can’t because he is much more partisan than he is willing to admit even to himself.
It’s election season and James is doing his part as the “civil” Republican.
What an absurd post in every respect.
It has no merit – wrong on the current facts, wrong on the history, wrong on the prescription.
After the election, James will return to provide his usually intelligent and interesting blogging.
NOTE: On this, yes, both sides do it.
The whole point of this was to link Obama with someone who wanted to kill Americans. Not much different than the PAC ad.
Except for the former being true and the latter being false. But hey, lefty hataz gotta hate.
@bandit- Who did Ayers kill?
Romney has just presented this explanation of his Medicare proposal.
In it – his words remember – he says that he makes no changes to current seniors (55 or older) to Medicare “No cuts, adjustments or savings”. So that means no changes to Medicare for 10 years.
After 10 years the next generation qualifies for his new plan but the seniors already in that plan can continue on as now.
Later on he says “The Medicare trustees have notified that the plan will go bankrupt, Medicare part A, in the next 12 years “
So President Romney plans to do nothing for 10years and then in 2years, with only a fraction of the 65+ pool being made up of the New Gen subject to his new rules, Medicare suddenly becomes solvent.
I have seen creative accounting but honestly how can anyone not living in the land of unicorns and fairies believe that this remotely adds up.
Actually, this is my comment:
Shorter James Joyner:
Boo hoo hoo, the thing I have spent my life studying is so nasty. Boo hoo hoo…when will these nasty politics stop?
Here is a charming example of the “Issues based” campaign conservatives are giving us
Billboard urging (armed) Navy Seals to “Remove the threat to America” in November
I think that if there were a time for a candidate to ask for a clean fight, it should be when that candidate still has clean hands.
I don’t believe Mr. Romney had clean hands at that moment when the pro-Obama PAC made the video of which I actually disapprove (complicated sentence!)
Clean hands would have been needed back in “Obama apologizes for America” and etc.
If Mr. Romney is making a rational demand, it should be “don’t get more negative than me” which of course leads to value judgement. For instance, I don’t think anyone who watched that commercial of which I disapprove actually thinks “Mitt Romney killed a woman.” That’s hyperbole. On the other hand, many did literally believe “Obama apologized for America.”
I thought your discussion was fair-minded, showing that both sides go negative when the need calls for it, or the temperature of the campaign rises. I also don’t think there are many ‘saints’ in politics. However, constituencies do like their candidate to go for the jugular, in order to get a win, and then call foul when a volley of similar negative stuff is thrown back at them.
In the case of the current GE, though, I think Romney has been slow to enter the mud-slinging game, until recently. In fact, he has been soundly criticized by his base for repeatedly calling Obama a nice man, good father, and leveling his disputes with Obama mainly on his dismal economical policies. But, that has changed with the bombardment of insults being routinely tossed out — Reid taking to the Senate floor making unsourced accusations, over-the-top Bain attacks insinuating Romney to be a potential felon, the Steelworker’s sad story ad, ridiculing his wife’s horse, blouse, his dog, a high school incident that was repudiated by family. Now you have distorted medicare claims, racially mocking language from Obama’s VP, and baseless threats about going back to the Bush days, when ironically people like Arthur Laffer tie Obama policies to Bush, saying that Romney’s economic philosophies are more in sync with economical growth.
Romney, though, has now been pushed over the civil limit line and is pounding back. I personally hope he tempers his remarks to being succinct, and then moves back in step with his prominent theme of the economy and job creation.
Romney certainly was slow to enter the mud slinging game when he was accusing Obama of wanting to surrender to terrorists back in 2008. I’d say that tops any of the bogus claims you’ve listed.
Can you describe how Romney’s Medicare claims are being distorted? You’ve made that claim more than once without any evidence, and somehow mange to never see or respond to comments questioning it.
Romney did not have clean hands. In fact, he was renowned as a negative campaigner in the primaries:
Others have named early and “truth challenged” attacks on Obama as well.
I seriously think “fainting couch” are the two words you need to know about Republicans in 2012.
Not true. I already went over this in an earlier post.
Here, though, is a postcard version of it:
Romney went negative on his primary opponents, that’s true. But, as noted in my above post, in the GE he has attempted to stick primarily to showing the differences between his economic philosophies and Obama’s. But, the many negative comments, have put him on defensive, as well as detouring the debate away from economical issues and jobs.
It’s really touching, this call for civility, this call for people to not blame their present actions on past events…but until we get to a place where an American President isn’t accused of being born in a foreign country or isn’t accused of being friends with a terrorist or isn’t the target of defeat as the main goal of his political opponents, “dirty” politics will have to continue, lest we are saddled with another disaster like the George W. Bush era…
As I posted earlier Romney today stated that Medicare will run out in 12 years if run as it is now. By your own admission he is not doing anything to resolve that for 10 years (current seniors) and after those 10 years it is only “Next Gen” that are affected by his plans.
Yet somehow in those two years and despite having the vast bulk of people in Medicare as “Current Seniors” rather than the “Next Gen” he manages to make the plan solvent. How?
And if those new plans offer “seniors cheaper, higher quality choices they can take if they wish” why are current seniors being limited from having access to them?
I’d tell that history a bit differently, but even accepting it, consider it as game theory. An opponent in the GE knows the primary history. Why the heck should they wait?
One basic model in game theory is that we should trust first, but then retaliate in tit-for-tat. This both allows us to be open to (more common) cooperation, but also to punish (less common) bad actors.
I could see Obama looking at that primary history, and thinking “it’s on.”
This is not true. Romney wants to repeal Obamacare which closes the Medicare Part D donut hole and provides free preventative care to seniors. Romney is promising to spend more money on Medicare to provide fewer benefits to seniors.
Removing people from traditional Medicare will weaken the bargaining power and result in fewer options for people still on Medicare.
The Ryan budget proposed ending Medicare and Romney said he would sign it, so saying they want to end it is completely fair.
Just a note. There are two Ryan Medicare plans. They are quite different. It is not sure which, if either, is really on the table.
This is a good point, but it’s probably fair to criticize him for both, especially as Romney is the one not actually telling us any policy details.
Besides, even if it’s no longer the plan, since when does that mean they can’t be criticized for earlier votes and support of the previous plan? I think it says a lot about Paul Ryan that he wanted to eliminate both the capital gains and estate taxes.
“I think Romney has been slow to enter the mud-slinging game, until recently.”
Considering Romney’s very first ad was to quote Obama as saying on his own behalf something which he was attributing to the McCain 2008 campaign, you remain as much of a flat-out liar as ever.
but … but … but … “both sides do it.”
Democrats don’t come anywhere near Republicans when it comes to that kind of toxicity.
On 7/22/46 Menachem Begin bombed the King David Hotel, killing 91 people. According to statements by the Irgun and by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the target was the general government offices housed in the King David Hotel, not the British military headquarters in that building. The general government offices in that building were a civilian target, not a military target. Therefore this was an act of terrorism.
On 9/9/81, Reagan gave Begin a ceremonial welcome at the White House.
If I accused Reagan of “palling around with terrorists,” would you say my remark had “a veneer of truth?” Just curious.
And a similar question can be asked regarding McCain’s friendship with Gordon “go for a head shot” Liddy.
Yes. Birtherism is the elephant in the room, and I think it’s bizarre that James’ 1,800-word article barely mentions it. Let’s review a few facts, because the usual suspects have spread lots of misinformation on this topic.
Pre-Obama, no POTUS or major candidate had ever released a BC. There was no precedent for this, and no legal requirement for this. Nevertheless, Obama released his BC on 6/12/08. Despite that release, birtherism became a major phenomenon.
So Obama released his BC, again, on 4/27/11. Despite that release, birtherism still remains a major phenomenon. In a poll done 1/12, only 27% of Republicans said this statement is true: “Obama was born in the United States” (link).
Birtherism is not a fringe phenomenon in the GOP. It’s a mainstream phenomenon. Even now, there are examples of GOP leaders pandering to birtherism, and Mitt is Exhibit A, as Jeremy explained.
I’ll repeat something I said recently in another thread: birtherism is about accusing the president of doing something tantamount to treason. It’s about our government being infitrated, at the highest level, by a foreigner, someone who is lying to us about their citizenship and thereby subverting the constitution. This is a very serious accusation, but it didn’t stop Mitt from leaping into bed with Trump, perhaps the most famous birther. We never heard Mitt denounce Trump’s birtherism, and Mitt’s enthusiastic embrace of Trump was a tacit endorsement of birtherism.
After doing that, I don’t see how Mitt is in any position to whine about unfair attacks.
None of the counter-examples (current or historical acts by Obama or other Dems) rise to the level of birtherism. Because of what birtherism means, because of how persistent and widespread it is, because of how it ignores the proof that has been presented, and because of Mitt’s personal embrace of it via Trump. Nothing Obama has done comes close.
Birtherism is an international disgrace. Birtherism announces to the world that millions of Americans are ignorant, hateful nuts. Birtherism vividly demonstrates that the GOP is rotten, from top to bottom. When a party has no leaders who can truly denounce something like birtherism, that means it has no leaders. The nuts are in charge now.
What utter revisionism. Limbaugh was never “an entertaining fringe.” In 1992, Reagan himself described Limbaugh as “the Number One voice for conservatism.” In 1993, NR described him as “The Leader of The Opposition.” And they proudly repeated this in 2003 (link).
In 1994, “Limbaugh was made an honorary member” of Congress by the GOP (link). This is Rush “take that bone out of your nose and call me back” Limbaugh that we’re talking about.
As for Coulter, Mitt himself gave her an enthusiastic introduction at CPAC in 2007. He had this to say about her (video):
Romney should not be saying it’s a “good thing” to hear from Coulter unless he thinks her views are welcome in the GOP. And that’s really the issue: that nuts like Limbaugh and Coulter, instead of being marginalized, are embraced by leaders of the GOP who are supposedly ‘moderate’ and ‘mainstream.’
James, it’s about time you faced facts. As I said, your party is rotten from top to bottom. And this is not a recent phenomenon, as you are trying to believe. It goes back at least twenty years, to the rise of Limbaugh.
MI6 had a price on Begin’s head, dead or alive, for some time.
Are you joking? Limbaugh has been a powerhouse on the right for decades.
I am 53. How will it work out for me if a President Romney drives a stake through Medicare’s heart a few weeks before I turn 55? It’s a bit late in the game to start fresh on my retirement planning. And I know from experience that is is no cakewalk getting individual health insurance for a healthy middle aged person. Not really looking forward to trying it as a senior citizen.
More on that:
Hmm. The intellectual giant of the right can’t remember if he tried to get stimulus funds? Oh, wait. He did remember, he was just lying.
I prefer GW. His early focus was on making consumer safety information (particularly automobile tires) harder for consumers to obtain. Then there were the secret Cheny/Big Oil meetings. Good times.
OK, now Romney/Ryan have jumped the shark on Medicare. They are promising to restore the $700b that was cut as part of Obamacare and then not cut anything for 10 more years. Their supporters follow their lead and describe this as saving Medicare.
That sounds like a really good plan considering it’ll cause Medicare to run out of money in 2016 instead of 2024.
There are no words for how incredibly mendacious Romney and Ryan are on this issue. How does anyone take them seriously?
I like the way Chait takes this apart:
I left out the parts where he gets into the details and explain how they make no sense. Reminds me again of this: GOP rhetoric is packed with so many contradictions that even their contradictions have contradictions (borrowed from a comment at NYT).
It’s important for a VP to be able to step in at a moment’s notice and take over the job in a way that’s congruent with the way it had been done the day before. So it’s quite appropriate that Ryan is a phony and a liar, just like Mitt.
@jan: “No one over the age of 55 would be affected in any way.”
I’m 49, so I get to continue paying for medicare for people at least 6 years older than me until the last one dies. But I don’t get to participate in that health care plan? I get “premium support?” Can you detail for me how this “premium support” will change over time with respect to medical inflation?
“No senior would be forced out of the traditional Medicare program against his will.” I’m under 55, so as it turns out, while I may not be “forced out,” I am simply being excluded while retaining the privilege of paying for someone else’s medicare. Sounds like a good deal to me.
“In reality, it’s the market giving seniors cheaper, higher quality choices they can take if they wish, with the traditional program remaining an option.” Simply repeating republican talking points is not really making an argument. Also, too, as I said, I’m under 55 – the “traditional program” of medicare will not be an option for me. I will get “premium support” to enter the market for private medical care where I will be subject to their underwriting decisions as to whether I can renew my policy annually, and at what price, which will likely exceed my “premium support.”
James Joyner: The links between Obama and former Weatherman William Ayers were tenuous
James Joyner: That Obama was pals with Bill Ayers, who had been a member of a militant organization, was true.
I guess the election must be drawing near, because the partisan doublethink is starting to take hold
Filling in for jan, what happens in 2016 is that people like Mike, anjin-san and me who are all pushing the double nickel, and our children, will be at the forefront of pushing deep means testing on the set old enough to get grandfathered in. That means turning it into Medicaid.
So much for the bond between generations, eh Paul?
@jukeboxgrad: @jukeboxgrad: Actually, yes, I think it’s perfectly fair to point to the relationship between politicians and controversial figures. Both Begin and Liddy are absolutely fair game in that regard. I doubt a Democrat would attack the Begin association but surely they’d consider Liddy a safe target. And, yeah, absolutely fair to make McCain explain why he’s pals with a convicted felon.
@Ken: I don’t think that’s contradictory. “Weatherman Bill Ayers” existed in the 1960s. By the time he and Obama were associates, he was “respectable Professor Bill Ayers of the prestigious University of Chicago.” For all intents and purposes, different guys.
James, fair enough. Thanks for that answer, and I respect it.
Yes. And I think this is relevant:
The ex officio Chairman of the Board of the University of South Carolina is the GOP governor (now Haley, formerly Sanford). According to modern GOP standards of guilt by association, Haley and Sanford are obliged to explain why they’ve been palling around with terrorists.
Just pointing out that Begin, like Ayres, managed to successfully rehabilitate himself to the point where he traveled in elite social and political circles. Clearly you get this.
That so many others on the right don’t I attribute to some combination of blind hatred of Obama and a general lack of sophistication.
How have you not corrected this post yet? Neither of these statements are true. You are quite literally lying here.
Are you waiting for a low-traffic Saturday to apologize or something?
Well, he wants to get his false equivalence thing going here. Can’t be an OTB front pager unless you proclaim “Both Sides Do It” even if its not strictly true .
James, you are a liar.
Proud of yourself?
“Now, though, we’ve got the Obama administration signing off on an ad insinuating that Mitt Romney killed a woman and the vice president refusing to back away from the suggestion that Romney wants to put black people back in chains. ”
If that’s what you think he suggested, you might want to take your anti-psychotic meds.
Biden said Romney wanted to “unchain Wall Street” (true, right?) which would have the effect of putting ordinary folks “back in chains.” And I’m impressed you were able to tell that he was only speaking those words to the black people in the audience that day, because the video I watched showed people of all races there.
James: You are wrong. Period. Look up “Southern Strategy.” Bad as that was, you’re no better by deliberately and disingenuously conflating what VP Biden said with the same tired race-baiting rhetoric that the GOP have been engaging in since the passage of the Voter Rights Act of 1965.
Back the fuck down, take a deep breath, and ask yourself: “Do I want to carry water for a bunch of plutocrats and racist knuckle-draggers?”
(reposted with profanity redacted. Sincere apologies for using coarse language.)
James: You are wrong. Period. Look up “Southern Strategy.” Bad as that was, you’re no better by deliberately and disingenuously conflating what VP Biden said with the same tired race-baiting rhetoric that the GOP have been engaging in since the passage of the Voter Rights Act of 1965.
Back the *&#@ down, take a deep breath, and ask yourself: “Do I want to carry water for a bunch of plutocrats and racist knuckle-draggers?”
Here’s my modest proposal: All media outlets whining about “incivility” and the nasty turn politics has taken lately should REFUSE to air/publish nastiness from both parties whether it be Obama/Biden, Romney/Ryan, Axelrod, Pelosi, Reid, Schumer,Durbin, Wasserman-Schultz, McConnell, Boehner, etc.
If these people didn’t get their hateful and nasty cheap shots in the press, they would stop because they wouldn’t be effective. Of course the nasty press would call this news, but it is not—-it is lowering the level of public discourse that the press decries. Yes, yes I know the establishment press is a lot of hypocrites, but if they REALLY wanted to stop it they could.
But they won’t because they are as invested in the nastiness as the politicians.
Sure we’d still have all the ads, but from my experience living in an Iowa media market, at some point people just stop listening and are turned off.
So I demand the national press not just talk the talk—walk the walk and refuse to air hate and anger from politicians.
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