Web Osi Speaks!

Friday, August 31, 2012



23 Kentucky children died of abuse, neglect in past year, state says
Written by
Tom Loftus

FRANKFORT, KY. — Twenty-two children died in substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect in Kentucky in the past year, according to a report released Friday by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

That’s down from 31 fatalities from child abuse and neglect in 2010-11, the report shows.

However, the new report, posted Friday afternoon on the cabinet’s website, updates and increases the number of fatalities for the past year. Some legislators criticized the cabinet last year for under-reporting the number of fatalities.

This year’s report states that numbers in the reports for past years can change as cases are resolved and coroners complete death investigations.

The new report states that eight of the 22 fatalities in 2011-12 were cases where state social workers had past involvement with the families.

The report also says that in 2011-12 there were 33 cases of “near fatalities” resulting from child abuse and neglect in the state. That is down from 47 near fatalities in 2010-11, according to the report.

“It is very good news that the just-released child aabuse and neglect report shows a decline in children dying,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “We should all celebrate that trend line while at the same time remembering that the death of a single child is still too many for us to ever tolerate.”

Labels: ,



Thursday, August 30, 2012


FACT CHECK: Ryan takes factual shortcuts in speech

WASHINGTON — GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan took some factual shortcuts during the Republican convention when he attacked President Barack Obama's policies on Medicare, the economic stimulus and the budget deficit. His running mate, Mitt Romney, was expected to speak later Thursday in the convention's culmination.

A closer look at some of Ryan's remarks Wednesday at the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla.:


RYAN: "And the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly. ... So they just took it all away from Medicare. Seven hundred and sixteen billion dollars, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama."

THE FACTS: Ryan's claim ignores the fact that Ryan himself incorporated the same cuts into budgets he steered through the House in the past two years as chairman of its Budget Committee, using the money for deficit reduction. And the cuts do not affect Medicare recipients directly, but rather reduce payments to hospitals, health insurance plans and other service providers.

In addition, Ryan's own plan to remake Medicare would squeeze the program's spending even more than the changes Obama made, shifting future retirees into a system in which they would get a fixed payment to shop for coverage among private insurance plans. Critics charge that would expose the elderly to more out-of-pocket costs.


RYAN: "The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare and cronyism at their worst. You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal."

THE FACTS: Ryan himself asked for stimulus funds shortly after Congress approved the $800 billion plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Ryan's pleas to federal agencies included letters to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis seeking stimulus grant money for two Wisconsin energy conservation companies.

One of them, the nonprofit Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp., received $20.3 million from the Energy Department to help homes and businesses improve energy efficiency, according to federal records. That company, he said in his letter, would build "sustainable demand for green jobs." Another eventual recipient, the Energy Center of Wisconsin, received about $365,000.


RYAN: Said Obama misled people in Ryan's hometown of Janesville, Wis., by making them think a General Motors plant there threatened with closure could be saved. "A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: 'I believe that if our government is there to support you ... this plant will be here for another hundred years.' That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year."

THE FACTS: The plant halted production in December 2008, weeks before Obama took office and well before he enacted a more robust auto industry bailout that rescued GM and Chrysler and allowed the majority of their plants - though not the Janesville facility - to stay in operation. Ryan himself voted for an auto bailout under President George W. Bush that was designed to help GM, but he was a vocal critic of the one pushed through by Obama that has been widely credited with revitalizing both GM and Chrysler.


RYAN: Obama "created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing."

THE FACTS: It's true that Obama hasn't heeded his commission's recommendations, but Ryan's not the best one to complain. He was a member of the commission and voted against its final report.

Read more here:







Labels: , ,



Wednesday, August 29, 2012




Tuesday, August 28, 2012

LEXINGTON HERALD LEADER: "Move Beyond The 'Birther' Jokes; Election Has Real, Serious Issues." I AGREE!

Move beyond the 'birther' jokes; election has real, serious issues

Election has real, serious issues

Speaking at an Aug. 21 Tea Party rally on the state Capitol steps, Republican state Sen. Damon Thayer told the crowd, "We need you to help send (President) Barack Obama back to Chicago or Hawaii, or wherever he wants to go."

When some members of the crowd shouted out, "Kenya," Thayer responded, "I'm not going to say that, but I appreciate your sentiments."

A couple of days later, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a rally in his home state of Michigan, "No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate."

Romney later claimed it was just a joke and said, "There is no question about where (Obama) was born. He was born in the U.S."

Thayer may have considered his throwaway line just a joke as well. Or maybe not.

But intentional or unintentional, jokes about where Obama was born alienate some voters and help perpetuate among others the suspicion, long discredited but still harbored by some in this country, that he is not really an American and therefore cannot legally hold the office of president.

For some, the suspicion is so strong they act on it.

In early August, Dr. Todd House, a Louisville anesthesiologist and a write-in presidential candidate, filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court claiming Obama is not a "natural born" citizen and therefore not eligible to be on the November ballot. His is not the first such suit and might not be the last. None has been successful, however.

Obama released his birth certificate last year, and state officials in Hawaii consistently have verified the authenticity of his birth records. Still, the suspicion that he is not one of us lives on in the minds of "birthers."

No doubt their suspicions will be reinforced by the recent release of 2016: Obama's America, a supposed documentary doing well at the box office that accuses Obama of running the country based on the socialist ideas of his late father.

There are many issues voters can use to compare Obama and Romney during this fall's campaign. Real issues such as the lingering economic recession and the resulting loss of jobs, tax policy, environmental policy, the continuing war in Afghanistan and health care reform, just to name a few.

But the question of where Obama was born is not a real issue. It was asked and answered the first time around.

Let's get past it because the upcoming decision American voters must make really is no joking matter.

Read more here:




Monday, August 27, 2012

MAUREEN DOWD: Too Late To Shake That Etch A Sketch.

Too Late to Shake That Etch A Sketch

SO now comes the Big Reveal?

Not the stripper in Tampa made up to resemble Sarah Palin, but something far more intriguing.

Will Mitt Romney use his Florida convention to finally peel away the layers of opacity and show us who he really is?


Romney told The Wall Street Journal that he won’t indulge those who want him to “lie down and let it all out”; he won’t be personalized “like I’m a piece of meat”; he won’t do a version of “This Is Your Life”; and he won’t “take everybody to my childhood home and say, ‘Here’s where I rode my bicycle.’ ”

Even if he wanted to, Mitt couldn’t reveal himself. He has recast his positions so many times, he doesn’t seem to know who he is.

He presents himself as a uniter who disdains negative campaigning, and then in the next breath, in his home state of Michigan on Friday, he makes a cheesy birther crack about the president — a bat’s squeak calling to the basest emotions — especially bizarre given that his own father was born out of the country, in Mexico, with a questionable right to run for president.

Being a merchant of doubt, spreading canards under the guise of humor, is a nasty business.

Even Bob Dole, known as the conservative Hatchet Man in his day, is warning that his party could curdle if it doesn’t start appealing to ethnic minorities, young people and the “mainstream,” and stand up to the far-right lunacy. The G.O.P. has veered so far right that Jack Kemp, Dole’s running mate in 1996, now looks like Teddy Kennedy compared with Kemp’s protégé Paul Ryan.

“We have got to be open,” the 89-year-old Dole told The Daily Telegraph of London. “We cannot be a single-issue party or a single-philosophy party.” He added that he was concerned about the “undercurrent of rigid conservatism where you don’t dare not toe the line.”

Sometimes pols pander so much they never find their way back to their core, or try to find their way back too late.

Romney seems to be forever on a journey out of vagueness, an endless search for identity.

Even teaming up with the most policy-specific Republican House member in a bid for reflected ideological clarity has not worked. Rather than Mitt’s gaining focus, Paul Ryan is losing it.

When he was put on the ticket, Ryan had an aggressive record of fighting against abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. He also had a reputation for sticking to his convictions, despite the political consequences. But he told reporters he would abide by Romney’s view that abortions should be allowed in cases of rape and incest. On Thursday, asked during a TV interview in Roanoke, Va., whether a woman should be able to get an abortion if she was raped, he replied: “I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea, the position that, the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.” But he also said he would adapt to Romney’s position, which he described as “a vast improvement of where we are right now.”

Ryan’s budget proposed the same $716 billion in 10-year Medicare savings that President Obama did in his health care law. But now Mitt says he’ll restore those payments to health care providers, payments he asserts — wrongly — that Obama “robbed” from Medicare. Ryan is echoing the attack with more vitriol than his new master.

We will be told in the next few days what a wonderful father and grandfather Romney is, and that is no doubt true. But being the son of a onetime presidential aspirant and the privileged patriarch of a coddled clan should not be sufficient reasons to be promoted to the Oval Office.

Romney may remove a few bricks, but he will likely leave intact the walls encircling Mormonism, his Mormon tithing, the cult of Bain, hidden tax returns, and the job that dare not speak its name — moderate governor of Massachusetts.

Poor Eric Fehrnstrom. The Romney spokesman got in trouble in March when he was asked how the candidate would pivot from far-right positions in the G.O.P. primaries to more centrist ones in the general election.

“Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” he said. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

Already suspicious conservatives pounced on the remark as proof that Mitt would say anything to get elected.

But Romney never did shake up the Etch A Sketch. He remains too insecure about his base. Romney and Obama are both running for their bases — and Mitt is running from his own elusive better angels.

And that is what’s disturbing about the prospect of a President Romney. Even though he once seemed to have sensible, moderate managerial instincts, he won’t stop ingratiating himself with the neo-Neanderthals.

That’s the biggest reveal of all.





QUESTION: Has The TEA Party "Sold Out" To The Mainstream GOP?

Has the tea party 'sold out' to the mainstream GOP?
By Shannon Travis

Some in tea party feel they are being absorbed by more mainstream Republicans
Others believe the movement has been successful in shifting the GOP to the right
Historian Douglas Brinkley: "It happens all the time in politics"

Tampa, Florida (CNN) -- Is the tea party changing the Republican Party from the inside -- or selling out to the GOP?

As Republicans prepare to officially roll out Mitt Romney as their party's presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention this week, major tea party groups and figures have descended on Tampa, Florida, to schmooze with party bigwigs and rally for Romney.

But Romney's conservative credentials have long been viewed with suspicion by the movement. So it came as a surprise when, before at least one event, tea party organizers committed what some activists would consider heresy: seeking approval from establishment Republicans to rally.

How much of a damper will Isaac be to convention?

All of it has opened up a once unthinkable charge: the movement that's rabble-roused and rocked the GOP establishment since 2009 is now too cozy with it.

"The top national groups have already sold out," said Judd Saul, a prominent Iowa activist associated with the Cedar Valley Tea Party. "They don't truly represent the grassroots."

"Even before the caucuses, these guys were all pushing for Romney even when the primaries were going on," Saul added.

"It's a pretty widespread (sentiment). A lot of activists have noticed that."
O'Donnell: RNC debate idea not stolen

But presidential historian Douglas Brinkley doesn't see this phenomenon as anything new.

"I think it happens all the time in politics," said Brinkley, a political analyst and professor at Rice University. "The grassroots people are the people who are hypermotivated. They are people willing to go to rallies and hold bake sales and ... and they're always later kind of seen as auxiliary players once it gets to the main game when the elections come in the fall."

Get the latest political news at CNN's Election Center

"I think selling out is too strong," added Brinkley. "But you can say something to the effect of they've tricked the tea party movement into believing they were going to have a meaningful role in the 2012 election."

Others are taking their groans to social media.

"I think it is time not only to clean up Washington but we as well need to clean up or clean out the top dogs in the RNC that are turn coats," tea party supporter Margaret Robinson posted on the Facebook page for "Not only TAKE BACK AMERICA but also need to TAKE BACK OUR REPUBLICAN PARTY. "

Saska Mare, who describes herself as a "tea party Republican" and Newt Gingrich supporter, wrote: "Now is the time for All Good Patriots to come to the aid of their Country and QUIT MITT & RECRUIT NEWT!!"

The president and CEO of one of the largest tea party sponsors knows that not everyone is happy with the commingling between the two groups.

"There's always purists in any movement who think that anything less than perfect is a sellout," said Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, based in Washington. "But that's not how the American system works. "

The head of another group was more blunt.

"Anyone at this point who is trying to disrupt the convention or protest the nomination of Romney is blinded by irrational enthusiasm," said Dustin Stockton, chief strategist for

There is one problem with such rationalities: They contradict the movement's belief that to change the system, it must be blown up.

Since its birth three years ago, tea party activists have railed against compromise, leaned on lawmakers, launched RINO hunts against moderates deemed "Republicans in Name Only" and sought swift action on their ideas of reduced government spending, lower taxes and increased adherence to the constitution.

For them, political patience was not a virtue.

But since then, the tea party has gradually moved from anger and impatience toward acceptance and embrace. Several leaders say they understand the slow pace of change and stress the need to change the political system from the inside.

Stockton's group sponsored a rally on Sunday in Tampa, a few miles away from the GOP convention site, featuring prominent tea partiers Herman Cain and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, both former presidential candidates.

The 30-year-old tea party leader is adamant that the event's goal is to continue advocating for the tea party.

"We wanted to make sure that when (activists) tune in to the convention and the convention starts, they know that the tea party is still here -- still fighting for the values they believe in," Stockton said. "Because that's really uniting more than Republicans, actually the American people in general. And we wanted to do it right before the conventions to try and set the tone for the entire convention."

Yet Stockton also revealed something that will surely cause some activists to fume.

"In order to get the venue and everything, we did get the blessings of the Romney camp and the RNC to hold the event months ago," Stockton said. "And the Romney camp is sending (Utah) Congressman Jason Chaffetz as a surrogate for Romney. So they're on board with it. "

Many tea partiers support efforts to unify the movement with the GOP.

Kibbe's group is also holding GOP-friendly events during the convention week. But he, too, beats back any notion that the tea party is toeing the Republican line.

"I would describe us as having a foot in the door and a seat at the table," the FreedomWorks chief said. "Things are definitely trending in our direction."

Kibbe also noted another achievement: the GOP embrace of core tea party proposals.

FreedomWorks had pushed the RNC's platform committee to adopt 12 items.

"We had a whole delegation of tea partiers at the platform committee," Kibbe said. "And we feel like we made a lot of progress. We feel like we had success on 11-and-a-half of them."

Sal Russo, chief strategist for the Tea Party Express, also claimed that the Republican Party is coming around to the tea party -- not the other way around.

"We have a huge Tea Party Express rally (in Tampa). In fact, we already have 15,000 reporters sign up to be there. We've called it the '2012 Republican National Convention,' " Russo joked.

Though Stockton is promoting unity during convention week, he has a special gripe: one prominent tea partier is not on the speaking list.

"I'm incredibly frustrated at the speaker lineup -- it doesn't include Sarah Palin," Stockton said. "And Palin should have definitely been invited. He also lamented that two former presidential hopefuls in 2012, Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, will not have a prominent presence.

Palin on her lack of a speaking role at convention

Meanwhile, after long viewing Romney as a suspect conservative, how are activists feeling about him now?

"I say there's a solid 50-50 split within the movement" for and against Romney, Saul said.

He added: "I will hold my nose and pull the lever for Romney. Legitimately, I think that President Obama is the worst of the two evils. And Romney has a shot. And with some backing and some pushing, he could do some better things for the economy and the country. "

But the FreedomWorks chief stressed political patience.

"The practical reality of presidential politics: it takes years to build your brand, and your machine, your ability to fundraise," Kibbe said. "And the tea party class was very green; they weren't ready."

In the face of some activist criticism, Russo said the movement should celebrate a milestone.

"I think (the tea party) has successfully yanked the Republican Party back to where it's sort of always been since Reagan yanked it back -- which is an opposition to an increasing size, cost and intrusiveness of the federal government," Russo said.

Calling tea party opposition to Romney and the RNC "silly," Russo said: "I mean, sometimes people don't know when to declare victory."

Labels: ,

Words To Live By, Words Of Wisdom, And Words To Ponder, As PATRIOTIC LIBERTY LOVERS LIKE ME.

"We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in."

-- Thomas Paine, The Crisis, no. 4, 1777

Labels: , ,



Sunday, August 26, 2012



Saturday, August 25, 2012



Friday, August 24, 2012

PEGGY NOONAN: America Meets Mr. Romney.

America Meets Mr. Romney
Anticipating the highlights of the GOP's Tampa convention.

It is good that Joe Biden is going to the Republican National Convention to hold high the flag of his party. People make fun of his gaffes, of his embarrassing verbal forays, but he's no fool and he knows how to take it to the other guy. The speech he is working on, to be given in the heart of downtown, just across from the convention site, will be stirring and stentorian: "All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Tampa, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, 'Ich bin ein Tampon.'"

I wish that were mine. It came in the mail from a Hollywood screenwriter, one of the gifted conservatives who quietly toil there.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann in Schaumburg, Ill., in March.

This, amazingly enough, is how the campaign feels at the moment: both neck and neck and wide open. A week ago a longtime elected official, who's been making the rounds in his swing state, told me he thought the national polls were correct and yet wrong. Americans are telling pollsters they've already made up their minds, they know who they're for. But, he said, he's seeing a number of people who don't feel fully satisfied with their decision, who aren't certain they've made the right choice. They may change their minds. "Ten or 15%", he guessed, "are still persuadable," still open to argument.

If he is right, that's big. It would be in line with the singular nature of this election year, and would explain what has been, so far, a fervor deficit.

So, Tampa. No one can guess the highlights in advance, but some hopes:

That Gov. Chris Christie brings his Garden State brio, that he is bodacious, funny and pointed, and that people say, the next day, "Man, Obama—Christie really opened up a can of Jersey on him."

That Sen. Rob Portman, whom many thought would, like Mr. Christie, have been a very solid vice presidential nominee, will get the best kind of revenge, which is constructive revenge. He is well placed to do for Mitt Romney what Ronald Reagan did for Barry Goldwater in 1964, which was make the case better than the nominee ever did.

It would be good to see Sen. Marco Rubio and talk about the meaning of things, the meaning of politics. He's a young man in the big game. Why?

Paul Ryan will be exciting, somehow you know that in advance. But he should perhaps keep in the back of his mind something that hasn't been mentioned much. People are saying—not as a criticism, not as a compliment, but musingly—two words: "He's young."

They've just had a bad experience with young, with President Obama. Mr. Ryan stands for big change in terms of programs, and people will be inclined to want some years in such a person. So he and his people should consider that 42 can be a plus or a minus, and think about how to enhance the former and lessen the latter.

How will voters judge Mr. Romney's speech? The answer comes in some questions:

Is it fresh? Is it true? Does it substantiate—add substance to—what we think we know of Mitt Romney? Does it deepen and broaden our understanding of him? Does it make us, as we listen, begin to see him as a possible president? Presidents are in our face 24 hours a day now. Is this someone we'd let in our living rooms for four years? Can he inspire?

Free advice is worth the price, and here goes:

If you want to lead America, you have to speak to the fix we're in, and that means addressing spending. But economic probity has a friend called economic growth, and that is what people care so much about—jobs, opportunity, the competitive advantage conferred by good policies. Are we a vital nation able to grow, to take on our true size again?

Emphasis is everything. Emphasize dynamism.

Mr. Romney shouldn't just repeat what he thinks but tell people why he thinks it, what life has taught him that formed his views.

He shouldn't shy away from religion. Why should he? This is America. It was in the practice of his faith that Mr. Romney came, as a bishop of the Mormon church, to become involved in helping those with lives very different from his own. In an interview Thursday night on the Catholic network EWTN, he told anchor Raymond Arroyo that as a "small-p pastor" he learned a great deal about those who feel under siege, lonely, left out. What did he learn? How did his church help him learn it?

He must use humor, for three reasons. One is that wit breaks through and sharpens all points. Another is that it is natural to him. Before the voting in Iowa, he wryly told a friend that the caucuses were like the LaBrea Tar Pits: "No one comes out the way they went in." On a conference call recently, he asked a question of his staff. No one answered. Mr. Romney waited. "Bueller? Bueller?" he said, in a perfect imitation of Ben Stein.

Third, President Obama can't stand to be made fun of. His pride won't allow it, his amour propre cannot countenance a joke at his own expense. If Mr. Romney lands a few very funny lines about the president's leadership, Mr. Obama will freak out. That would be fun, wouldn't it?

A small point with practical significance. Convention crowds are revved up. They want to stomp and cheer. During Mr. Romney's speech, they'll go crazy applauding and yelling. This is fun in the hall but tedious for the viewer at home. At some point Mr. Romney should signal, by his demeanor and through his text, that everyone should calm down so he can talk to America. Applause line, cheers, applause line—that's not political discourse, it's a ticket to nowhere.

Finally, the big broadcast networks plan to give the Republicans (and the Democrats) only one hour a night of TV coverage.

They used to give all night, long as it took, and treat the proceedings with respect. What they give now, to the people of a great democracy fighting for its economic life in an uncertain world, is . . . an hour a night? For a national political convention?

This is a scandal. Mock them for it. This isn't Edward R. Murrow in charge of the news, it's Gordon Gekko in charge of programming.

Much is uncertain, no one knows what will happen this year, how it will turn out. But when I think of Mr. Romney's speech I find myself thinking of Alan Shepard.

It's May 5, 1961, in Cape Canaveral, Fla., and everyone's fussing. This monitor's blinking and that one's beeping and Shepard is up there, at the top of a Redstone rocket, in a tiny little capsule called Friendship 7. Mission Control is hemming and hawing: Should we stay or should we go? Finally Shepard says: "Why don't you fix your little problem and light this candle?"

That's what a good speech and a good convention right now can do. There's a great race ahead. Make it come alive. Come on and light this candle.


Michael Grunwald: The Party Of No: New Details On The GOP Plot To Obstruct [POTUS Barack] Obama.

The New New Deal
The Party of No: New Details on the GOP Plot to Obstruct Obama
By Michael Grunwald

TIME just published “The Party of No,” an article adapted from my new book, The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. It reveals some of my reporting on the Republican plot to obstruct President Obama before he even took office, including secret meetings led by House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (in December 2008) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (in early January 2009) where they laid out their daring (though cynical and political) no-honeymoon strategy of all-out resistance to a popular president-elect during an economic emergency. “If he was for it,” former Ohio senator George Voinovich explained, “we had to be against it.” The excerpt includes a special bonus nugget of Mitt Romney dissing the Tea Party.

But as we say in the sales world: There’s more! I’m going to be blogging some of the news and larger themes from the book here at, and I’ll kick it off with more scenes from the early days of the Republican Strategy of No. Read on to hear what Joe Biden’s sources in the Senate GOP were telling him, some candid pillow talk between a Republican staffer and an Obama aide, and a top Republican admitting his party didn’t want to “play.” I’ll start with a scene I consider a turning point in the Obama era, when the new president came to the Hill to extend his hand and the GOP spurned it.

On January 27, 2009, House Republican leader John Boehner opened his weekly conference meeting with an announcement: Obama would make his first visit to the Capitol around noon, to meet exclusively with Republicans about his economic recovery plan. “We’re looking forward to the President’s visit,” Boehner said.

The niceties ended there, as Boehner turned to the $815 billion stimulus bill that House Democrats had just unveiled. Boehner complained that it would spend too much, too late, on too many Democratic goodies. He urged his members to trash it on cable, on YouTube, on the House floor: “It’s another run-of-the-mill, undisciplined, cumbersome, wasteful Washington spending bill…I hope everyone here will join me in voting NO!”

Cantor’s whip staff had been planning a “walk-back” strategy where they would start leaking that 50 Republicans might vote yes, then that they were down to 30 problem children, then that they might lose 20 or so. The idea was to convey momentum. “You want the members to feel like: Oh, the herd is moving, I’ve got to move with the herd,” explains Rob Collins, Cantor’s chief of staff at the time. That way, even if a dozen Republicans ultimately defected, it would look like Obama failed to meet expectations.

But when he addressed the conference, Cantor adopted a different strategy. “We’re not going to lose any Republicans,” he declared. His staff was stunned.

“We’re like, uhhhhh, we have to recalibrate,” Collins recalls.

Afterward, Cantor’s aides asked if he was sure he wanted to go that far out on a limb. Zero was a low number. Centrists and big-spending appropriators from Obama-friendly districts would be sorely tempted to break ranks. If Cantor promised unanimity and failed to deliver, the press would have the story it craved: Republicans divided, dysfunction junction, still clueless after two straight spankings.

But Cantor said yes, he meant zero. He was afraid that if the Democrats managed to pick off two or three Republicans, they’d be able to slap a “bipartisan” label on the bill. “We can get there,” he said. “If we don’t get there, we can try like hell to get there.”

Shortly before 11 a.m., the AP reported that Boehner had urged Republicans to oppose the stimulus. Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs handed Obama a copy of the story in the Oval Office, just before he left for the Hill to make his case for the stimulus, an unprecedented visit to the opposition after just a week in office. “You know, we still thought this was on the level,” Gibbs says. Obama political aide David Axelrod says that after the president left, White House aides were buzzing about the insult. And they didn’t even know that Cantor had vowed to whip a unanimous vote—which, ultimately, he did.

“It was stunning that we’d set this up and before hearing from the President, they’d say they were going to oppose this,” Axelrod says. “Our feeling was, we were dealing with a potential disaster of epic proportions that demanded cooperation. If anything was a signal of what the next two years would be like, it was that.”

But that wasn’t the only signal. A few other examples:

*Vice President Biden told me that during the transition, he was warned not to expect any bipartisan cooperation on major votes. “I spoke to seven different Republican senators who said: ‘Joe, I’m not going to be able to help you on anything,’” he recalled. His informants said McConnell had demanded unified resistance. “The way it was characterized to me was: ‘For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back,’” Biden said. The vice president said he hasn’t even told Obama who his sources were, but Bob Bennett of Utah and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania both confirmed they had conversations with Biden along those lines.

“So I promise you—and the President agreed with me—I never thought we were going to get Republican support,” Biden said.

* One Obama aide said he received a similar warning from a Republican Senate staffer he was seeing at the time. He remembered asking her one morning in bed: How do we get a stimulus deal. She replied: Baby, there’s no deal!

“This is how we get whole,” she said with a laugh. “We’re going to do to you what you did to us in 2006.”

* David Obey, then-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, met with his GOP counterpart, Jerry Lewis, to explain what Democrats had in mind for the stimulus and ask what Republicans wanted to include. “Jerry’s response was: ‘I’m sorry, but leadership tells us we can’t play,’” Obey told me. “Exact quote: ‘We can’t play.’ What they said right from the get-go was: It doesn’t matter what the hell you do, we ain’t going to help you. We’re going to stand on the sidelines and bitch.”

Lewis blames Obey and the Democrats for the committee’s turn toward extreme partisanship, but he doesn’t deny that GOP leaders made a decision not to play. “The leadership decided there was no play to be had,” he said. Republicans recognized that after Obama’s big promises about bipartisanship, they could break those promises by refusing to cooperate. In the words of Congressman Tom Cole, a deputy Republican whip: “We wanted the talking point: ‘The only thing bipartisan was the opposition.’”

Read more in this week’s issue of TIME or pick up a copy of The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era.

Read more:

Labels: , ,



Thursday, August 23, 2012


Just Think No

There’s something trying about an unforgiving man suddenly in need of forgiveness.

Yet Todd Akin is right. He shouldn’t have to get out of the United States Senate race in Missouri simply for saying what he believes. He reflects a severe stance on abortion that many in his party embrace, including the new vice presidential candidate.

“I talk about one word, one sentence, one day out of place, and, all of a sudden, the entire establishment turns on you,” Representative Akin complained to the conservative radio talk-show host Dana Loesch on Tuesday as he spurned pleas from Mitt Romney and other G.O.P. big shots to abort his bid. He continued: “They just ran for cover at the first sign of any gunfire, and I think we need to rush to the gunfire.”

He’s right again. Other Republicans are trying to cover up their true identity to get elected. Even as party leaders attempted to lock the crazy uncle in the attic in Missouri, they were doing their own crazy thing down in Tampa, Fla., by reiterating language in their platform calling for a no-exceptions Constitutional amendment outlawing abortion, even in cases of rape, incest and threat to the life of the mother.

Paul Ryan, who teamed up with Akin in the House to sponsor harsh anti-abortion bills, may look young and hip and new generation, with his iPod full of heavy metal jams and his cute kids. But he’s just a fresh face on a Taliban creed — the evermore antediluvian, anti-women, anti-immigrant, anti-gay conservative core. Amiable in khakis and polo shirts, Ryan is the perfect modern leader to rally medieval Republicans who believe that Adam and Eve cavorted with dinosaurs.

In asserting that women have the superpower to repel rape sperm, Akin ratcheted up the old chauvinist argument that gals who wear miniskirts and high-heels are “asking” for rape; now women who don’t have the presence of mind to conjure up a tubal spasm, a drone hormone, a magic spermicidal secretion or mere willpower to block conception during rape are “asking” for a baby.

“The biological facts are perhaps inconvenient, but whether the egg meets the sperm is a matter of luck or prevention,” says Dr. Paul Blumenthal, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology who directs the Stanford Program for International Reproductive Education and Services. “If wishing that ‘I won’t get pregnant right now’ made it so, we wouldn’t need contraceptives.”

When you wish upon a rape.

Dr. Blumenthal is alarmed that Akin is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

“What is very disturbing to me is that people like Mr. Akin who have postulated this secret mechanism for avoiding pregnancy have developed their own make-believe world of science based on entirely self-serving beliefs of convenience or just ignorance,” he said. “I don’t think we want these people to be responsible for the lives of others.”

But, for all the Republican cant about how they want to keep government out of the lives of others, the ultraconservatives are panting to meddle in the lives of others. Contrary to President Obama’s refreshing assertion Monday that a bunch of male politicians shouldn’t be making health care decisions for women, this troglodyte tribe of men and Bachmann-esque women craves that responsibility.

“Next we’ll be trying to take away the vote from women,” lamented Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist who advised Romney in the 2008 race. “How can we be the party of cool and make the generational leap forward when we have these recidivist ideas at the very core of our base?”

Akin defended the incendiary comment he made on a Missouri TV show — “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” — by saying he wasn’t talking about rapists being legitimate, but rather “false claims” of rape, “like those made in Roe versus Wade.” He said he meant to say “forcible rape.” Oh, that’s ever so much better.

Akin, Ryan et al. have made it their business to designate which rapes are legitimate, joining up to push Orwellian legislation last year to narrow the definition of rape to “forcible rape.”

And Mitt, who was for abortion rights (except for Mormons he counseled) before he was against them, in his last presidential bid went after the endorsement of Dr. John Willke, a former president of the National Right to Life Committee and father of the inanity about rape victims being able to turn back sperm if they put their mind and muscles to it.

The nutty doctor hypothesized: “This is a traumatic thing. She’s, shall we say, she’s uptight.” Adding, “She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.”

Akin is right in saying this race should be about “who we are as a people.”

It should also be about who they are. They are people who want to be in your life, deep in your life, even when they say they don’t.



Doctor sues to have President Barack Obama removed from Kentucky ballot

A Louisville anesthesiologist has asked a Frankfort court to bar President Barack Obama from the November ballot.

Dr. Todd House — who is running for president as a write-in candidate with his wife, Suzanne Dudgeon House as his vice presidential candidate — filed the lawsuit Aug. 10 claiming that Obama is not a “natural born” citizen, which is required of presidential candidates by the U.S. Constitution.

Obama’s campaign spokeswoman for Kentucky didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Claims like House’s have been put forward by Obama opponents — often called “birthers” by Obama supporters — since he first ran for president in 2008. They claim Obama was born in the African nation of Kenya.

About 20 similar cases have been filed across the country. All of the cases that have come to a conclusion have been rejected by judges — both in federal and state courts — and most have failed on technical reasons. Courts have rejected several of the cases, ruling that those who filed the suits didn’t have “standing” to bring them.

In an interview Wednesday, Todd House, 52, said that he filed to run for president in part to give him standing to file the suit but also because he opposes both Republicans and Democrats and wanted to help get the Libertarian message out.

And he said he wanted to bring suit because the courts are “shirking the issue” by not addressing the merits of similar cases that have come before them. “Really, the judiciary and the Supreme Court needs to hash this out and decide it once and for all for the greater good of the country,” House said.

In seeking a temporary restraining order to keep Obama off the Kentucky ballot, House claims not only that the president was born in Kenya but that he is not eligible to be president because his father was not a U.S. citizen.

He also claims Obama never re-established U.S. citizenship after moving to Indonesia as a child.

Hawaii officials have said repeatedly that Obama was born in that state and newspaper birth notices published in the days after Obama’s birth on Aug. 4, 1961, indicate he was born there.

But some Obama opponents claim the president’s Hawaiian birth certificate is falsified. House raises that possibility in his filings, citing an investigation by Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio in which Arpaio claimed the birth certificate presented by Obama was forged.

After Arpaio pressed Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a Republican, to keep Obama’s name off the ballot, Bennett conducted his own investigation and said Hawaii presented proof that Obama was born there.

House said in the interview that he doesn’t believe Obama was born in Kenya but said that the president has not proved he was born in the United States.

“I think really, the claim is, we don’t know where he was born,” House said. “The Kenyan birth issue was placed in the restraining order because it is one of several possibilities and no one really knows the truth.

“But it’s clear that we don’t know the truth and we should know the truth.”

Even if he was born in Hawaii, House said that he doesn’t believe Obama is qualified to be president because his father, Barack Obama Sr. was not a U.S. citizen. He relies on an 19th-century definition of “natural born citizen” that says both parents of a child must be citizens for the child to be considered “natural born.”

But the definition of the term has been subject of great debate since the Constitution didn’t define the term and because the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, granted citizenship to anyone born in the country.

In addition, the Congressional Research Service opined in 2009 that a “natural born citizen” is anyone born in the United States whose parents are not in the country as part of a foreign diplomatic contingent.

Obama’s father was in the country on a student visa, and his mother was a U.S. citizen.

In the suit and supporting documents, House notes that Obama’s literary agent claimed that he was “born in Kenya” in 1991 and continued to make the claim in subsequent years. The agent has said it was simply a mistake.

The documents also question whether Obama has a valid Social Security number, which it says is “indicative of potential identity and/or immigration fraud.

House has sent a summons to Obama and to Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to testify in the case.

He filed the suit “pro se,” meaning he did so without a lawyer. It has been assigned to Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate.

Labels: , ,



Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Iraqi man pleads guilty to conspiring to send weapons, money, explosives to al-Qaida in Iraq
By Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An Iraqi man pleaded guilty Tuesday to 10 charges of conspiring to send weapons, cash and explosives to al-Qaida in Iraq and two counts of lying to federal immigration agents to get into the United States and stay in the country.

Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 24, gave simple “yes” and “I plead guilty” answers to questions from U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell in federal court in Louisville. The surprise plea came a week before Hammadi was set to stand trial on the charges in Bowling Green, Ky., where he and a co-defendant were arrested in May 2011 after a federal sting operation.

Hammadi, who did not have a plea agreement with prosecutors, faces 25 years to life in federal prison plus millions of dollars in fines when he’s sentenced Dec. 5. He had been scheduled for trial Aug. 28 in Bowling Green. The co-defendant, 30-year-old Waad Ramadan Alwan, previously pleaded guilty and is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 3 in Bowling Green.

The plea came as good news to soldiers who fought near the city of Bayji, Iraq, in the Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad in 2005, where Hammadi and Alwan told the FBI they worked as insurgents. Six Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers died in that area in August 2005 and Hammadi and Alwan told the FBI and an informant that they were active insurgents there.

Justin Hunt of Alexandria, Va., served with the 173rd Long Range Surveillance Detachment of the Rhode Island National Guard near Bayji. His unit responded to assist on Aug. 9, 2005, when a roadside bomb killed four of the soldiers from Pennsylvania. Hunt sees Hammadi’s plea as justice.

“This guy was not smart,” Hunt told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “He was just lucky. His luck has run out.”

Brandon Miller of Chadds Ford, Pa., received a Purple Heart for burn injuries he sustained after his Humvee blew up after hitting a roadside bomb near Bayji. He described the plea as “outstanding.”

“It spares everybody a lot of trouble,” said Miller, a former Pennsylvania National Guard sergeant.

Hammadi’s defense attorney, Jim Earhart of Louisville, said his client “grew up in a different world” and never intended to get caught up in shipping weapons and explosives to al-Qaida in Iraq. Earhart described Hammadi as willing to plead guilty rather than go through the rigors of a trial to achieve the same result.

“He’s hesitant. He’s 24 years-old,” Earhart said. “He’s looking at 25 years to life. Who wouldn’t be?”

Earlier in the day at a pre-trial hearing, U.S. Justice Department attorney Larry Schneider said the government has “definitive proof” linking Hammadi to insurgent attacks after the American-led invasion of Iraq.

“He was either part of Al-Qaida in Iraq or a group affiliated with Al-Qaida in Iraq,” Schneider said during a pre-trial conference.

After the plea hearing, U.S. Attorney David J. Hale noted that Hammadi pleaded guilty to lying about his involvement with insurgent and terrorist groups.

“It speaks for itself, what he admitted to,” Hale said.

The U.S. State Department estimated that al-Qaida in Iraq had about 1,000 core members in 2005 and about 10,000 affiliated fighters at its peak in 2010.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Calhoun spelled out nine charges against Hammadi involving attempts to ship sniper rifles, cases of C4 explosives, rocket propelled grenades, hand grenades, machine guns and wads of cash to al-Qaida in Iraq from January 2011 until the sting operation closed in May 2011. Calhoun also laid out count 10, which involved an attempt to send Stinger missile systems and counts 11 and 12, which charged Hammadi with lying about prior associations with terrorist organizations on a form to enter the United States as a refugee and another form seeking permanent legal resident status.

After each charge, the green jumpsuit-clad and shackled Hammadi answered “yes” and “I do plead guilty.”

A government informant identified only as “Ammar” first started working with Alwan in late 2010. Hammadi admitted to joining the conspiracy in January 2011. Hale said all of the weapons involved were inactive and couldn’t have been used. Hale added that none made it overseas.

Hale credited the efforts of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a group that includes the FBI and Bowling Green Police Department, with running the sting and making the case winnable.

“In short, the system that was put in place post-9/11 worked,” Hale said. “There’s no place to hide. They chose Bowling Green, Ky., ... that’s no different than choosing a major American city.”

Labels: , , ,



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

FUTURE SCOTUS: How The Next President Could Change The Supreme Court

SCOTUS Spotting: How the Next President Could Change the Supreme Court
Romney or Obama could significantly change the makeup of the highest court in the land—and the rules on everything from gun control to abortion rights
By Adam Cohen
(Cohen is the author of Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America)

Every four years Supreme Court watchers try to guess how many Justices the next President will be able to appoint — and what those new appointees would mean for the law. For some reason during this campaign season the media and the public do not seem to be thinking much about this question — far less, say, than about shirtless photos of a vice presidential candidate — but they should be. It’s not just a legal parlor game: court appointments over the next four years could rewrite the rules for everything from gun control to abortion rights.

(MORE: The Latest Crime-Solving Technique the Gun Lobby Doesn’t Like)

There is no way of knowing how many vacancies there will be during the next presidential term, since Justices are appointed for life. But there is a reasonable chance that there could be one or more. Four of the current Justices are over 74, including Stephen Breyer, who turned 76 last week, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 79. Justices sometimes step down for personal reasons, as Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter did in recent years.

Even a single Justice can have a profound impact on the country. We saw just how profound this year, with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling upholding the new national health care law. With the Supreme Court sharply divided along ideological lines – as it has been for years – there are a large number of hot-button issues on which one new Justice could make a major difference.

Take campaign finance, for example. In 2010, the Court handed down a controversial ruling in Citizens United v. FEC holding that corporations have a constitutional right to spend unlimited amounts of money on federal elections. The most important issues in the case were decided by a 5-4 vote. This ruling was wildly unpopular – one poll found that 62 percent of Americans oppose it. But the Court shows no signs of backing away from it.

(MORE: How to Solve the Voter ID Debate)

Supporters of campaign finance restrictions have been talking about trying to undo it by passing a constitutional amendment, but the best chance of reining in corporate influence on elections would be if President Obama is re-elected and one of the conservative Justices left the Court. If that happened, there might well be five votes to overturn the Citizens United ruling.

Guns are another issue on which a single appointment could make a huge difference. In 2008, the Supreme Court struck down Washington, D.C.’s gun control law and held for the first time that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns. The Court decided this case, District of Columbia v. Heller, by a 5-4 vote. But if President Obama were to replace one of the conservative justices, the Court could overturn Heller – giving government far more leeway to pass gun control laws.

On the other hand, if Mitt Romney is elected and one of the liberal Justices departed, the Court could rewrite constitutional law on issues like gay rights and abortion. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that laws criminalizing gay sex are unconstitutional. If Romney, as President, got to replace one of the liberal Justices, there could be five votes to allow states to pass these laws again.

A Romney presidency could also mean the end of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision establishing the constitutional right to abortion. Romney recently said that he would “love” it if the Court reversed Roe. Predicting votes on the Court is hardly a science, but some court-watchers believe that the addition of one more conservative Justice could ensure that the ruling is overturned. If that happened, states would be free – as they were before 1973 – to make abortion illegal.

(MORE: ‘Personhood’: How Mississippi’s Amendment Could Affect Everything from the Drinking Age to Abortion)

There are many other important issues on which a single Supreme Court difference could make all of the difference, from whether bans on gay marriage are constitutional to the use of the death penalty to the future of affirmative. So it is not hard to see why both President Obama and Romney are avoiding talking about it—neither side is eager to take up a subject that has so many hot-button social issues embedded in it. But considering how high the stakes are, voters should be demanding answers from both sides.

Read more:

Labels: , ,



Monday, August 20, 2012


It's the Circumstances, Stupid
How the Republican ticket can suit the moment and use Clark Kent—er, Paul Ryan.

Americans are not ideologues. They think ideology is something squished down on their heads from on high, something imposed on them by big thinkers who create systems we’re all supposed to conform to. Americans are more interested in philosophy, which bubbles up from human beings, from tradition and learned experience, and isn’t imposed.

Lately we are hearing a bit about ideology, but the work of a great political philosopher, Edmund Burke, is more pertinent. Burke respected reality, acknowledged human nature, and appreciated political context. In “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” he wrote, “Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing color and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind.”

That’s what Republicans and especially conservatives in this heady moment have to keep in mind: the circumstances.

Here are America’s as the election unfolds: We are in economic crisis. People are afraid. Unemployment is high. Half the people in the country receive some sort of monthly check from the government—Social Security, veterans benefits, educational aid, disability, welfare. Why this is and what it portends is debate for another day. What is important now is that a lot of people don’t feel they can afford to lose anything of what’s coming in.


Normally, Republican candidates for national office get to be either stupid or evil. That’s how the media and Democrats tag them. But they won’t be able to tag Paul Ryan as either, because he’s too well known as smart and decent.

So they will attempt to tag him as an ideologue, and this may take on some force. He’s “extreme,” “radical,” his policy prescriptions are driven not by his knowledge of life as its lived but by abstractions, by something he read in a book or saw on a flow chart. And he wants to cut everything. He’s a mad-ideologue-bean counter.

Republicans know how meaningful this campaign became when Mr. Ryan was picked: He changed its subject matter just by showing up. And he is right in his central insight, which is his central political reason for being: America, to be strong again, must get its spending and revenues more closely aligned. It is irresponsible of the Democrats to ignore and punt and play with this great challenge.

But Republicans must understand, also, that the race probably just became more of an uphill battle, because Paul Ryan has been very specific about what must and can be done. Americans will give Romney-Ryan a fair hearing, but everything has to go right now, everyone has to bring their A game.

Republicans should keep this picture in mind. There’s a woman on a porch in eastern Ohio and she has a dog and likes guns and supports the NRA and sees herself as more or less conservative. She assumed she’d vote for Romney and not that big loser in the White House. But she’s hearing about Ryan and she’s hearing the word “cuts.” She knows spending is out of control and she’s worried about deficits and debt. But she’s on disability and her husband’s illness is being handled by Medicare, and she’s wondering: “Do these guys really understand my life? Do they know how it is for us?” She’s getting concerned, and not only for herself but her neighbors and friends. People are not just protective of themselves, they’re loyal to others.

Ryan is associated with the word cutting. Republicans will have to make people believe the word to associate with him is “saving,” that the Romney-Ryan ticket wants to save entitlement programs that aren’t sustainable, that will in time collapse unless we impose ruinous taxes or continue with ruinous deficits.

Republicans have just a few weeks to get across—on the stump, at the conventions—that they’re trying to save Medicare, not kill it, that they’re the lifeguard, not the shark.


Go for broke on your fidelity to the safety net and your insistence on saving it. The other guy does nothing but talk, pose and let the crisis worsen.

Stick together. Romney and Ryan on the stump were dynamic and drew huge crowds. They look stronger, more substantive together. Now they’ve split up, which is standard: You can cover twice as much ground that way. But there’s nothing standard about this year. They should break precedent and campaign together. It’s Ryan with Romney, Romney with Ryan. They balance, enhance and moderate each other. One is long accused of being an opportunist, the other charged with being an idealist. Keep them together, it’s an interesting package.

The more you see of Paul Ryan, the more you understand and appreciate his thinking. Get him doing long interviews, not short ones—full hours on the Sunday shows, sit-downs with Bret Baier and Charlie Rose. This is high risk. He does high risk.

With all the PAC money floating around, we’ve entered the Golden Age of mudslinging. When Democrats run the spot where a young guy throws grandma in the wheelchair off the cliff—well, don’t wait for that ad.

Republicans should do their own spot, now—one that’s comic and sweet. Grandma in the wheelchair is speeding on a downward slope toward a cliff. She looks terrified. Suddenly a young guy who looks like Clark Kent—that is, like Paul Ryan—springs forward, puts his body between the wheelchair and the edge, and stops it. She looks up at him, smiles, touches his face with her hand. He smiles, turns the chair around and begins to push her back to safety. “Romney-Ryan. Trying to get things back on firm ground.”

Answer the “Does he understand my life?” question head on. How many of Mr. Ryan’s constituents are on some kind of benefits? They keep electing him by healthy margins. There must be a reason. Find them. “My name is Kate, I receive the Social Security I earned, and my husband receives the veteran’s benefits he earned. In these hard times we rely on them to live. We would never trust things to someone who didn’t have our interests at heart. We’ve trusted Paul 14 years. He never let us down. He won’t let America down.”

Republican ads have to be clever, funny or moving. A central fact of this political year is that everyone’s spending billions on ads, yet campaign consultants fear no one’s watching them anymore—there’s too many, they’re propaganda, people use them for bathroom breaks. That sound you hear after the Obama attack ad is not cheers, it’s toilets flushing.

Romney-Ryan should spend some money the old-fashioned way, not only on 60-second spots but on half-hour and full-hour live, voter-in-the-round question-and-answer sessions. And, of course, speeches. In 1976, Ronald Reagan was finished in the North Carolina primary until he borrowed the money to buy a half-hour of airtime the night before the voting. He ran a taped speech that turned everything around. Speeches are powerful! And Paul Ryan was once a speechwriter. For Jack Kemp, God bless him.

Mitt Romney just threw a long ball. Fine. The GOP will have to play an audacious, longball game.

An old cliché of politics has never been truer: “They don’t care what you know unless they know that you care.” Or, it’s the circumstances, stupid.



Trying to see into the heart of the GOP candidate
By HELEN O'NEILL — AP Special Correspondent

Long before Mitt Romney became the millionaire candidate from Massachusetts, he was his father's son, weeding the garden in the upscale suburb of Detroit where he grew up. He hated the chore. But he idolized the man who made him do it - George Romney, the outspoken, no-nonsense, auto executive turned politician.

Romney shares an uncanny physical resemblance to his father, with the same graying temples and square jaw. And their lives have followed strikingly similar paths. As young men, both spent time abroad as Mormon missionaries and then passionately pursued the women they would marry. Both were successful businessmen who made personal fortunes before moving into politics. Both were church leaders, governors and aspiring presidential candidates.

Romney frequently invokes the memory of his father on the campaign trail. Photographs of George Romney adorn his campaign bus and headquarters in Boston.

"If people understood that equation of George Romney and his impact on my life and on Mitt's life, they wouldn't be so curious about why Mitt is running for president," Romney's wife, Ann, said in 2007, when her husband first sought the presidency. "He is why Mitt is running."

The biggest difference between father and son? Personality.

George Romney was a garrulous, engaging, shoot-from-the-hip politician who stuck to his principles and said what he believed - to his political peril. With his 17-year-old son by his side, he stalked out of the 1964 Republican convention after trying unsuccessfully to promote a plank in the party platform denouncing extremism. In 1967, he was drummed out of presidential politics after saying he had been "brainwashed" by American generals into supporting the Vietnam War while touring Southeast Asia two years earlier.

Romney's candidacy - he was then a leading contender for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination - never recovered.

His son never forgot.

"It did tell me you have to be very, very careful in your choice of words," he said in 2005. "The careful selection of words is something I'm more attuned to because Dad fell into that quagmire."

Critics say the father who railed against conservative extremism would hardly recognize the son's accommodations to those on the right. Or his complete reversal on key issues - abortion, gun control, tax pledges and gay rights - that leave even some supporters scratching their heads about Romney's core beliefs.

"Multiple Choice Mitt," Edward M. Kennedy famously dubbed Romney during their 1994 U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, a charge that still echoes.

Romney doesn't attempt to explain the changes, other than to say he has "evolved" on issues.

"I'm as consistent as human beings can be," he told a New Hampshire editorial board last year.


Speaking to the NAACP in July, Mitt Romney said blacks would vote for him if they "understood who I truly am in my heart." That's a dubious assertion - his opponent is Barack Obama, after all - but it does raise the question: What is in Mitt Romney's heart?

Friends and family testify to his fine impulses, but those who do not know him well must see past his stiff, sometimes painstakingly scripted responses. They must look for patterns in his political zigzags, and try to account for his extraordinary ambition. Unavailable and unrevealing, the candidate is far from an open book.

But some of the influences that helped make Romney the man he is are apparent. His father, for one. And the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which, for believers, is considered as much a way of life as it is a religion. Romney, who rarely talks about his faith in public, grew up steeped in the Mormon tradition, which emphasizes family, service, industriousness, tenaciousness and humility.

There is no paid hierarchy in the Mormon faith and male church members serve as lay leaders. Romney spent about 14 years as a bishop and stake president, an ecclesiastical leader who oversaw a dozen congregations and thousands of worshippers in New England. Though he had a demanding business career and was raising five boys, Romney devoted up to 25 hours a week to church duties - giving sermons, visiting the sick and counseling members about everything from work to marriage. He once described himself as a "true-blue through and through" believer, though he has taken pains to declare that the teachings of the church would not influence his obligations as president.

"To understand Mitt Romney," says Ronald Scott, a distant cousin who wrote a biography of the candidate, "you cannot underestimate the influence of his father, or the importance of Mormonism in shaping his life."

Willard Mitt Romney was considered something of a miracle baby by his parents, born in 1947 after a difficult pregnancy. The youngest of four, he was raised in the affluent Bloomfield Hills section of Detroit, where his father was CEO of the now-defunct American Motors Corp., before becoming governor of Michigan. His mother, Lenore, later was an unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate.

Enrolled at the elite Cranbrook School, Romney was a mediocre student and a poor athlete, best known for his love of practical jokes. Former classmates remember him dressing as a police officer and tapping on the car windows of teenage friends on dates. He once staged an elaborate formal dinner on the median of a busy street.

His prankster reputation was depicted in a darker light in a recent Washington Post article, which described how he and others taunted a gay student, pinning him down and cutting off his long hair. Romney says he doesn't remember the incident and apologized if his youthful "high jinks" offended anyone.

"He wasn't a standout, but there was definitely something special about him," says Eric Muirhead, then captain of the school's cross-country team, who describes a race in which Romney stumbled over and over. Clearly struggling, his teammates tried to help him, but he angrily waved them away. Though Romney finished dead last, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

To this day, Muirhead says, he has never witnessed such determination.

In his senior year, Romney began dating his future wife, Ann Davies, who attended a sister school to Cranbrook. The young Romney was so smitten that, when he went to France for two and a half years as a Mormon missionary, his father took the young woman under his wing and introduced her to the church. The elder Romney eventually baptized her in the faith.

France was a tough challenge for a clean-cut young American trying to convert wine-loving Catholics to a religion that eschews alcohol, and Romney has talked about the humiliation of having door after door slammed in his face.

But it was in France that he first emerged as a leader. When a devastating car crash killed the wife of the mission president, Romney, who was behind the wheel when another car slammed into his, went on to head the mission after recovering from his injuries.

Former classmate and friend Jim Bailey said that when Romney returned to the U.S. he was noticeably more mature and far more disciplined in his studies.

"It was a life-changing experience and he learned a huge amount," Bailey said.

After graduating from Brigham Young University in 1971, Romney earned dual law and business degrees from Harvard. He headed straight into the business world, joining the Boston Consulting Group, and then Bain & Co., another Boston-based consulting organization. In 1984 he was picked to head its spinoff, Bain Capital, a private equity firm that bought and restructured companies.


At Bain, where he spent a total of 15 years, Romney was known as a tireless leader who immersed himself in mountains of data, weighed all arguments, and often sweated profusely during rigorous decision-making sessions.

"He was calculating, an intelligent risk-taker, with very high expectations of himself and the people working for him," said Geoffrey Rehnert, one of Bain Capital's co-founders.

Bain made Romney fabulously wealthy. He has a net worth estimated at $250 million.

Romney consistently points to his Bain resume as proof of what he can accomplish, projecting an image of a take-charge businessman who understands what drives the economy and how to create jobs. According to Romney, his company created 100,000 new jobs (numbers that are difficult to verify), and helped grow such retail icons as Staples, The Sports Authority and Domino's Pizza.

But, as his record at Bain has come under increasing scrutiny, it has also raised questions about Romney's core values and style. The Obama campaign has accused Romney of being a job destroyer and "outsourcer in chief" for the factories that Bain closed and the jobs it moved abroad.

Rehnert says the attacks on Bain are offensive to those who worked there, and unfair to Romney because some of the deals that soured were not on his watch. He also dismissed a famous photograph of the early Bain team, with $10 and $20 bills bulging out of their pockets, and clenched between their teeth, as feeding into what he and others say is the biggest misconception about Romney: that he is only interested in money.

In fact, Rehnert said, Romney was so frugal that, although partners were earning vast sums, they worked at cheap metal desks and Romney once chided him for frivolously spending money on a newfangled toy: a cellphone. It was the mid-1980s.

Others described a big-hearted businessman who put family firmly first. In 1996, Romney shut down the company after a managing director's 14-year-old daughter went missing after a party. The entire staff was dispatched to New York, where they fanned out with fliers and search teams. She eventually was found at a friend's house.

This is the generous boss Cindy Gillespie remembers from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Gillespie, later a top gubernatorial aide, hadn't known Romney very long when her father lapsed into a coma after heart surgery. Romney, she said, called her at the hospital every day. Later, after her father recovered, Romney picked him to participate in the Olympic torch relay as the representative Vietnam veteran.

"It was the highlight of his life," Gillespie said of her father.

Others testify to similar acts of kindness during Romney's time as church leader in the 1980s and 1990s. Douglas Anderson, dean of the business school at Utah State University and a longtime family friend, describes how the Romneys opened their house to his family for a month after the Anderson house burned down. Others describe Romney piling his boys into his truck to help someone move house, fixing a church member's leaking roof or tackling a hornet's nest for a friend.

But there was also an authoritarian side that struck some as self-righteous and cold.

As a young bishop in 1983 Romney learned that a married mother of four in his ward had been advised by doctors to terminate her latest pregnancy as she was being treated for a potentially dangerous blood clot. Her stake president already had approved, when Romney arrived at the hospital and sternly urged her to reconsider. "As your bishop," she said Romney told her, "my concern is with the child."

Recalling the incident in Scott's book, the woman, Carrel Hilton Sheldon said: "Mitt has many, many winning qualities but at the time he was blind to me as a human being."


Romney often quotes a piece of advice from his father.

"Never get into politics too young," he'd say. "Only after you've proven yourself somewhere else, and your kids are raised."

Romney's first foray into politics, in 1994, struck some as political insanity. Prodded by his father, Romney challenged Sen. Kennedy, the "liberal lion" from Massachusetts, one of the most Democratic states. Romney presented himself as pro-abortion rights, a champion for gay rights and in favor of gun control - among numerous positions he later reversed. The pundits accused him of trying to be "more Kennedy than Kennedy."

Initially the squeaky-clean newcomer did well in the polls, unnerving the Kennedy campaign. But once the Kennedy machine swung into full gear, Romney's campaign faltered. Foreshadowing the attack ads of today, Kennedy aggressively went after Romney's record at Bain, casting him as a cold-hearted capitalist willing to do anything for profits. For the first time, Romney's religion was also publicly scrutinized.

Romney, who refused to run negative ads against Kennedy, said later that he learned valuable lessons from his defeat, that "if fired upon, you return fire."

Back at Bain, he was restless for a new challenge. It came in 1999 when Romney was recruited to, as he puts it, "rescue the Winter Olympics." At the time, the 2002 games in Salt Lake City had become mired in a bribery scandal and faced a massive deficit. The organizing committee needed a white knight, and Romney eagerly hurled himself into the job.

But while many credit him with turning around the Olympics and invigorating a demoralized staff, others say he magnified the extent of the financial problems, unfairly vilified earlier executives and was as intent on promoting himself as much as the games. Romney's image even appeared on a number of Olympic pins, which struck some as narcissistic.

"It was obvious that he had an agenda larger than just the Olympics," Robert H. Garff, chairman of the organizing committee, said in 2007.

Sure enough, after a triumphant return to Boston, Romney wasted no time in launching his bid for governor of Massachusetts. He was sworn in on Jan. 2, 2003, placing his hand on the same Bible his father had used when he was sworn in as governor of Michigan.

Romney's immediate task was to tackle a $3 billion budget deficit, and, according to Gillespie, he approached it with the same laser focus and open-minded approach he had used on the Olympic deficit.

"He doesn't micromanage," Gillespie said. "He gets strong people, starts a methodical review, asks questions about everything, gets clarity and makes his decision."

Romney instituted a series of spending cuts and fee increases - critics equated them to taxes - for many state licenses and services. But his signature achievement was health care reform. Reaching out to Democratic leaders, Romney succeeded in passing a health care law that requires everyone in Massachusetts to buy insurance or pay a penalty. The law, which Romney signed with great pomp on the steps of Faneuil Hall with Kennedy at his side, became the model for the national version pushed by Obama and recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court - a law Romney has vowed to repeal if elected.

Even as governor, Romney acted more like a CEO than a politician and displayed an imperious side that annoyed old-timers. His office was cordoned off with velvet ropes and state troopers were posted at an elevator reserved solely for his use.

He had a testy relationship with the Democratic-controlled Legislature, and spent little time cultivating the usual social or political relationships of the office. There was a palpable sense that his one-term governorship was a springboard to loftier goals.

At a recent Obama rally on the Statehouse steps, Democratic legislator Pat Haddad suggested that, if Romney is elected president, "you're gonna get the same guy who never wanted to engage the Legislature. He never wanted to look for new jobs; he was always only looking for his next job."

Today, Romney is back on the trail in pursuit of that job - one that eluded him four years ago when he lost the Republican nomination to John McCain. This time around, he is noticeably more confident, and seems more comfortable in his own skin. Yet, as much as he tries to humanize himself by, for example, tweeting about Carl Jr.'s jalapeno chicken sandwich or his trip to a local barber, the 65-year-old candidate cannot shake the image of someone whose wealth and privileged life have insulated him from ordinary people.

Some of his off-the-cuff remarks haven't helped, such as saying his wife "drives a couple of Cadillacs" and that he didn't really follow NASCAR too closely but has some friends who are team owners. Nor have media reports about plans to quadruple the size of his $12 million waterfront house in La Jolla, Calif., plans that include a split-level garage with an elevator. Romney also owns homes in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Utah.

Friends say such an image is utter distortion. In person, they say, Romney is warm and engaging, with a penchant for bursting into song. Romney singing "America the Beautiful" used to be a fixture of his early campaign appearances.

Philip Barlow, a professor of Mormon history at Utah State who served with him in church described a meeting years ago in which Romney glided backwards across the room in a perfect rendition of Michael Jackson's "moon walk."

"He just has a certain personality and style," Barlow said, "Even when he's relaxing at his beach house in shorts flipping burgers and joking, there is still an elegance or formality about him."

Others see a kind of patrician entitlement, a sense that Romney feels superior to most, destined even, to hold the highest political office in the land.

Some observers simply don't know what to think

Tony Kimball, who served as executive secretary during Romney's stint as stake president, said that while he has tremendous respect and affection for his friend, he is baffled by the candidate's ever-shifting positions on issues and his opaqueness on policy.

"I don't have a clue who this guy is right now," said Kimball, a retired professor of government and politics. "But he is not the person I worked with back in the '80s and '90s."

Kimball said he will not be voting for Romney.

But family friend Douglas Anderson, a Democrat who voted for Obama in the last election, said he will vote for Romney.

"While I am very sympathetic to many of the goals of President Obama," Anderson said, "I think Mitt Romney is an extraordinary individual with the capacity to make an enormous contribution to this country. And I am eager to see him have that chance."

Read more here: