Published: Saturday 21 July 2012
Published: Tuesday 15 May 2012
Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
Published: Friday 23 March 2012
On average, Romney received only 23 percent from voters who said a candidate’s religious views mattered a “great deal” to them.

The Republican presidential primaries this year have turned into a religious census. There is little precedent in modern politics for the extent to which a state’s choice for a nominee has coincided so closely with how many of its ballots were cast by white evangelical voters.


Where evangelicals cast a minority of the ballots, Mitt Romney has won. Where evangelical voters predominated, Romney has lost, in most cases to Rick Santorum.

Romney’s victory Tuesday in Illinois fit snugly within this pattern. The result pointed to a continuing problem for Santorum: He has yet to break through in places where evangelicals were not the principal force.

While the exit polls did not question voters directly about their attitudes toward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is indirect evidence that Romney’s faith may be holding down his vote among non-Mormons for whom a candidate’s religion matters.

But it’s also true that Romney’s Mormonism has had a positive electoral side. Solidarity among Mormon voters, eager to break a historical barrier, helped Romney win Arizona, Nevada and Idaho. Romney won 96 percent among self-identified Mormons in Arizona and 88 percent in Nevada. In Idaho, Romney carried counties in the southern part of this state where the bulk of its Mormon population resides, even as he lost most of the state’s northern counties to Santorum or Ron Paul.

But outside of Mormon strongholds, voters ...

Published: Friday 9 March 2012
“Unless Ron Paul somehow wins the nomination, it looks as if a vote for the Republican presidential candidate this fall will be a vote for war with Iran.”


Unless Ron Paul somehow wins the nomination, it looks as if a vote for the Republican presidential candidate this fall will be a vote for war with Iran.

No other conclusion can be drawn from parsing the candidates’ public remarks. Paul, of course, is basically an isolationist who believes it is none of our business if Iran wants to build nuclear weapons. He questions even the use of sanctions, such as those now in force. But Paul has about as much chance of winning the GOP nomination as I do.Mitt RomneyRick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have all sought to portrayPresident Obama READ FULL POST 17 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 25 February 2012
“The president’s proposal will require companies to pay a minimum corporate tax on all offshore profits, thus reducing the incentive for offshore production and parking profits in a tax haven.”

President Obama announced plans on Wednesday to reform the corporate tax code to make it simpler and fairer. The plan would reduce the top corporate tax rate substantially from 35 percent to 28 percent (25 percent for manufacturing) without increasing the deficit, a tall order indeed. Eliminating special interest tax breaks for business is an obvious quid pro quo for a lower tax rate and has the added benefits that it reduces the complexity and increases the fairness of the tax system. But this will not be sufficient.

To achieve a tax cut that is revenue neutral, the president has proposed eliminating three provisions in the tax code that create significant inequities and economic distortion. He proposes limiting the tax deductibility of interest, eliminating the special tax treatment of earnings of hedge fund and private equity managers, and reducing incentives for companies to offshore profits in tax havens.

Currently businesses can deduct interest payments on all of their debt no matter how highly leveraged they are. This leads companies to assume high debt-to-equity ratios not justified by business requirements. This makes companies vulnerable to financial distress in an economic downturn. A recent study of 2,156 highly leveraged companies found that a stunningly high 25 percent of them went bankrupt between 2007 and 2011. The tax deductibility of interest also encourages businesses to use complex financial instruments whose only purpose is to reduce the company's taxes. Finally, the disparate treatment of interest on debt and earnings retained by the corporation discriminates against ...

Published: Friday 24 February 2012
“Can Paul really oppose such ‘fascism’ while his campaign is bankrolled by one of the chief protagonists and beneficiaries of the very system Ron Paul claims to oppose?”

If there’s one thing that distinguishes Ron Paul from the rest of the GOP field, it’s his principled stand against American empire and his ardent defense of individual liberties. Paul’s opposition to wars, bloated defense budgets and government espionage of US citizens has made him a hero among some young conservatives. His seemingly rock-solid principles and radicalism has even drawn some on the left; unlike even left-wing Democrats, Paul has said he wants to abolish both the CIA and the FBI to protect individual “liberty.”

So it should come as a shock and disappointment to his followers that Ron Paul’s single largest donor—his Sheldon Adelson, as it were—founded a controversial defense contractor, Palantir Technologies, that profits from government espionage work for the CIA, FBI and other agencies, and which last year was caught organizing an illegal spy ring targeting American political opponents of the US Chamber of Commerce, including journalists, progressive activists and union leaders. (Palantir takes its name from the mystic stones used by characters in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to spy one another.)

According to recently filed FEC disclosure documents, Ron Paul’s Super PAC has received nearly all of its money from a single source, billionaire Peter Thiel. So far, Thiel has contributed $2.6 million to Ron Paul’s Super PAC, Endorse Liberty, providing 76 percent of the Super PAC’s total intake. 

Thiel, a self-described libertarian and opponent of ...

Published: Friday 24 February 2012
“The billionaires backing the GOP’s super PAC’s may have placed their bets more wisely than anyone else knows.”

Make it stop. Please, just make it stop. That's the short version of my reaction to GOP primary debate #20. Maybe it was too soon. Maybe I need more time to recover from my two days at CPAC. (After the debate, I felt the same odd sensation that I swear I felt after finally fleeing CPAC — that tingling sensation one usually feels when an arm or leg that's "fallen asleep" wakes up. Except it was it was my brain coming back to life, after going numb.)

As a progressive, it really shouldn't bother me. After all, in many ways the biggest winner of the Republican debates is President Obama, while the biggest losers are (a) the candidates and (b) the Republican party. Plus, the debates have supplied an entertaining string of awkward momentsThis one had its moments, too. But it's getting painful to watch and listen to these guys. It's like ...

Published: Thursday 23 February 2012
“In a Where’s Waldo moment, it turned out that the dreaded nukes were not in Iraq, and the leading Republican presidential candidates are convinced that Iran now has such weapons and they need to be taken out.”

Here we go again. With the economy showing faint signs of life and their positions on the social issues alienating most moderates, the leading Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, have returned to the elixir of warmongering to once again sway the gullible masses. The race to the bottom has been set by Newt Gingrich, the most desperate of the lot, who on Tuesday charged that “The President wants to unilaterally weaken the United States,” because his administration has dared question the wisdom of Israel attacking Iran and proposes a slight reduction in the bloated defense budget. 

Let the good times roll with a beefed-up military budget justified by plans to invade yet another Muslim country. As Paul warned during the South Carolina primary debate as his presidential rivals threatened war with Iran: “I’m afraid what’s going on right now is similar to the war propaganda that went on against Iraq.” Indeed, the shouting match over which of the other GOP candidates most wants a war with Iran is in sync with the last Republican president’s 2003 invasion.

It was an invasion that removed Saddam Hussein, once the U.S. ally in confronting Iran, from power and replaced him with a Shite leadership long beholden to the ayatollahs of Iran. Of course, as Bush lied, this was not about nation-building aimed at imposing a democracy in our image, but rather, as is the claim now, about preventing radical Muslims from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. ...

Published: Wednesday 22 February 2012
“Huge donations may raise ethical issues.”

Thanks to a small number of wealthy individuals, the outside spending groups known as “super PACs” that are working to put the four leading GOP candidates in the White House collectively raised more than the candidates themselves in January.

Candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul raised a combined $21.1 million for the month, according to Federal Election Commission records, while the four primary super PACs backing them raised $22.1 million.

Donors to candidates number in the thousands, but they may only give $2,500 per candidate, per election. Super PAC donors, thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and a lower-cour ruling, can give unlimited amounts. The funds can come from billionaires, corporations and labor unions. So far this election, the funds have been spent overwhelmingly on advertising disparaging competing candidates.

Super PACs are prohibited from coordinating their activities with the candidates.

The average donation to a super PAC filing in January was $63,000, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of FEC data.

Two of the super PACs — “Winning Our Future,” supporting Newt Gingrich and “Endorse Liberty,” supporting Ron Paul — are dominated by a single donor.

Of the $11 million Winning Our Future raised in January, $10 million — about 90 percent of the total for the month — came from ...

Published: Wednesday 22 February 2012
“Bottom line: Whoever emerges as the GOP standard-bearer will be deeply indebted to a handful of people, each of whom will expect a good return on their investment.”

Have you heard of William Dore, Foster Friess, Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons, Peter Thiel, or Bruce Kovner? If not, let me introduce them to you. They’re running for the Republican nomination for president.

I know, I know. You think Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney are running. They are – but only because the people listed in the first paragraph have given them huge sums of money to do so. In a sense, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul, and Romney are the fronts. Dore et al. are the real investors.

According to January’s Federal Election Commission report, William Dore and Foster Friess supplied more than three-fourths of the $2.1 million raked in by Rick Santorum’s super PAC in January. Dore, president of the Dore Energy Corporation in Lake Charles, Louisiana, gave $1 million; Freis, a fund manager based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, gave $669,000 ...

Published: Monday 20 February 2012
“Citizens for Tax Justice reports that the 280 most profitable U.S. corporations sheltered half their profits from taxes between 2008 and 2010.”

A cynic might argue that business leaders and their friends in Congress weren't expecting different results.

In either case, we've become a bipolar nation, 1% manic and 99% depressive. Our affliction is caused by a 30-year experiment in the dismal economics of delusion. Deregulation for corporations and tax cuts for the wealthy have defined conservative policy since the 1970s, when University of Chicago economist Arthur Laffer convinced Dick Cheney and other Republican officials that lowering taxes on the rich would generate more revenue.

Ronald Reagan complied in the 1980s by dramatically reducing the top marginal tax rate. And while declaring government "the problem" he eased a half-century of protective regulations on mortgage lending.

In the Clinton years, Larry Summers and Alan Greenspan and Phil Gramm and others lobbied against regulations on the derivatives that evolved into toxic assets a decade later. A lonely voice of opposition, Commodities Trading Commission head Brooksley Born, was denounced by the powerful Treasury men, who were shocked by her affront to the nation's "financial stability."

The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 removed long-held protections for commercial bank deposits, as the newly liberated financial institutions now coveted the unprecedented profits in high-risk investments. Soon after, the 2000s brought us the Bush tax cuts, which have cost the nation over two trillion dollars, and a further assault on the Securities and ...

Published: Thursday 16 February 2012
“How the Politics of the Super Rich Became American Politics.”

At a time when it’s become a cliché to say that Occupy Wall Street has changed the nation’s political conversation -- drawing long overdue attention to the struggles of the 99% -- electoral politics and the 2012 presidential election have become almost exclusively defined by the 1%. Or, to be more precise, the .0000063%. Those are the 196 individual donors who have provided nearly 80% of the money raised by super PACs in 2011 by giving $100,000 or more each.

These political action committees, spawned by the Supreme Court’s 5-4Citizens United decision in January 2010, can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, or unions for the purpose of supporting or opposing a political candidate. In theory, super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating directly with a candidate, though in practice they’re just a murkier extension of political campaigns, performing all the functions of a traditional campaign without any of the corresponding accountability.

If 2008 was ...

Published: Tuesday 14 February 2012
“But to have both unlimited and undisclosed donations, Hoersting noted, activists can form a so-called 501(c)4, named for the section of the Internal Revenue Service code on social-welfare nonprofits.”

The big Republican names were all at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., last week: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin.

The three-day conference, known as CPAC and hosted by the American Conservative Union, drew about 11,000 participants and 1,300 journalists, who crammed into the Marriott's ballroom for the big speeches.

While most attention focused on Republican presidential hopefuls and other party luminaries, we opted to take a spin around panels and events devoted to fundraising. They were a window into how money might be raised this election cycle, through new-fangled super PACs and their even more opaque nonprofit sidekicks, as well as through more old-fashioned tactics.

One conference panel -- "What's Up With Campaign Finance?" -- featured some of the lawyers who helped win the recent court decisions, such as Citizens United, that cleared the way for the new, more free-wheeling campaign-finance landscape.

At one point, moderator and lawyer Dan Backer predicted the eventual overhaul of the Federal Election Campaign Act of the 1970s, which he crowed "has been brutalized and made Swiss cheese by the courts, thanks to the folks on this panel."

At another point, panelist Benjamin Barr, a constitutional lawyer, joked about the hoopla over Citizens United and the worry that it would lead to a campaign-finance "apocalypse."

"If there's an apocalypse upon us, I suppose we have the four ...

Published: Thursday 9 February 2012
“Mitt Romney has won three races (New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada) but he has now lost five (Iowa, South Carolina, Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota).”

The big winner Tuesday? Anybody But Romney.

After eight states have held Republican primaries and caucuses, the ordained front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has lost the majority of contests. Mitt Romney has won three races (New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada) but he has now lost five (Iowa, South Carolina, Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota).

Here’s the even more unsettling fact for those who would make Romney a nominee: Rick Santorum, who was supposed a footnote to the 2012 contest, has won more states than Mitt Romney. But let’s not succumb to Santorumania just yet.

Yes, yes, of course, the sweater vest had a good night. But the big deal is that Republicans rejected the empty suit.

Rick Santorum may have won beauty contests Tuesday in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, but he won’t even be on the ballot for delegate-rich contests in states such as Indiana and Virginia. He’s still running for vice president, or maybe a cabinet post.


Published: Monday 6 February 2012
“On Tuesday evening, Romney’s blustering prattle about American military power sounded like former Vice President Dick Cheney at his most disturbed.”

Mitt Romney's convincing victory in the Florida primary erased his earlier defeats and perhaps any serious obstacle to his nomination. The question that still troubles party leaders, however, is the damage he will sustain before returning to Tampa in September for their convention.

Triumph could cost Romney much more than the million dollars or so that bought each point of his 46-32 margin over Newt Gingrich. Already the former speaker has shaped the plutocratic image of Romney now visible in national polls. A furious, wounded Gingrich could go still further — demanding, for instance, that Romney release many more years of tax returns.

But the electorate can also learn much about Romney from Ron Paul, if the Texan ever summons the courage to articulate their profound differences on war, national security and defense spending.

The scorching character assaults that incinerated Gingrich have left him yearning for revenge, and he is a past master of the politics of personal destruction. In Florida, he became the target of the same tactics and rhetoric that he popularized among Republicans two decades ago, when he created GOPAC to take over Congress.

Although Gingrich's own copious ...

Published: Monday 30 January 2012
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania trailed far behind, with little hope of victory in a state where the winner will take all 50 delegates, and the rest will get nothing.

Mitt Romney opened a commanding lead in Florida Sunday, driving his rivals to start shifting their sights to other states as more suitable battlegrounds to keep challenging him for the Republican presidential nomination.

Three new polls showed the former Massachusetts governor seizing a double-digit lead over his nearest competitor, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, in Florida, where voting will end on Tuesday.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania trailed far behind, with little hope of victory in a state where the winner will take all 50 delegates, and the rest will get nothing.

Gingrich planned to barnstorm the state by air Monday in a primary-eve push to close the gap. But he also looked past the likely loss on Tuesday, insisting the anti-Romney vote eventually will coalesce around him. "We will go all the way to the convention," he said Sunday.

Santorum, who suspended campaigning to be at the hospital bedside of an ailing 3-year-old daughter, sent surrogates to Florida. Rather than return to the state, he announced new plans to campaign instead in four other states Monday and Tuesday.

And Paul, who already abandoned ...

Published: Sunday 29 January 2012
“He’s an unscrupulous man, a one-car demolition derby, but if he goads Obama to unaccustomed bravery and other Democrats to rethink outdated liberal dogma (affirmative action, etc.), then he will have done his nation a great service.”

Where is the Democratic Gingrich?

I do not mean that Newt Gingrich — the one who is a virtual Michelin Man of grandiosity, pneumatically overstuffed with self-references and appeals to the political gutter. I do not mean the man whose public life has been as chaotic as his private one (and vice versa) and who is capable of the most sinister simplicities, such as the time he suggested that Susan Smith would not have murdered her two children had Republicans been in power. This Gingrich is a Rorschach test: If you don’t think he’s nuts, you are.


The Gingrich I seek is not the man above but the one of big ideas. The term gets thrown around a lot, and Gingrich himself is apt to think his every idea is BIG. His mind is always in the tumble cycle. And even when he is spouting boilerplate, he can distance himself from his worn verbiage to say something fresh or provocative or ugly — it’s all the same to him. Out of nowhere, he has exhumed Saul Alinsky, whose fame is limited to university sociology departments, and yet whose name is so perfectly evocative of old-style radicalism, vaguely ...

Published: Friday 20 January 2012
“What’s remarkable is that Romney seems to be closing in on a victory at the very moment when he is painting himself as the anti-populist and a tone-deaf economic elitist.”

Members of the Tea Party insisted they were turning the GOP into a populist, anti-establishment bastion. Social conservatives have long argued that values and morals matter more than money. Yet in the end, the corporate and economically conservative wing of the Republican Party always seems to win.

Thus was Mitt Romney so confident of victory in Saturday’s South Carolina primary that he left the state briefly on Tuesday for a fundraiser in New York. And why not? The power of big money has been amplified in this campaign by the super PACs let loose by the Supreme Court’sCitizens United decision and lax regulation.

Published: Friday 20 January 2012
“Let’s have an honest conversation about all forms of bigotry — not our current talking-points-driven screamfest that rightly criticizes one kind of prejudice but wrongly tolerates other forms of prejudice that are often just as destructive.”

If they have any value at all anymore, presidential election campaigns at least remain larger-than-life mirrors reflecting back painful truths about our society. As evidence, ponder the two-sided debate over Republican candidate Ron Paul and bigotry.

One camp cites Paul's hate-filled newsletters and his libertarian opposition to civil rights regulations as evidence that he aligns with racists. As the esteemed scholar Tim Wise puts it, this part of Paul's record proves that he represents "the reactionary, white supremacist, Social Darwinists of this culture, who believe ... the police who dragged sit-in protesters off soda fountain stools for trespassing on a white man's property were justified in doing so, and that the freedom of department store owners to refuse to let black people try on clothes in their dressing rooms was more sacrosanct than the right of black people to be treated like human beings."

The other camp tends to acknowledge those ugly truths about Paul but then points out that the Texas congressman has been one of the only politicians 1) fighting surveillance, indefinite detention and due-process-free assassination policies almost exclusively aimed at minorities; 2) opposing wars that often seem motivated by rank Islamophobia; and 3) railing against the bigotry of a drug war that disproportionately targets people of color.


Published: Sunday 15 January 2012
The first order of business for the group is to rally donors to Santorum’s cause.

With this state's Republican presidential primary a week away, former Sen. Rick Santorum on Saturday received the endorsement of 150 influential Christian conservative leaders who are hoping to prevent former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney from becoming the GOP nominee.

The group, suspicious that Romney's commitment to social conservative causes such as ending legalized abortion is weak, met at a ranch outside of Houston, Texas, in hopes of rallying around one candidate rather than split their votes among three — Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The endorsement came as the Republican presidential field converged on scenic Charleston, S.C., for a televised town hall meeting for undecided voters hosted by Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a telephone news conference after the meeting that the conservatives had begun their deliberations with "not a lot of hope that we could reach consensus around one candidate."

But in the end "there emerged a strong consensus around Rick Santorum," Perkins said, after three rounds of balloting.


Published: Saturday 14 January 2012
Criminal prosecution is theoretically possible, but highly unlikely — and even civil sanctions are rare, according to a review of Federal Election Commission actions.

Presidential front-runner Mitt Romney knows that he can’t talk to the people who run the notorious “super PAC” that may have won the Iowa caucuses for him.

“It's illegal, as you probably know. I'm not allowed to communicate with a super PAC in any way, shape or form,” he said in December on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. “My goodness, if we coordinate in any way whatsoever, we go to the Big House.”

Well, probably not. Criminal prosecution is theoretically possible, but highly unlikely — and even civil sanctions are rare, according to a review of Federal Election Commission actions.

Since 1999, the FEC has conducted a total of three investigations into alleged coordination between a candidate committee and an individual or organization making “independent expenditures.” Two of those probes resulted in fines totaling $26,000, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation.

The Citizens United Supreme Court decision and a lower-court ruling in 2010 allowed corporations, individuals and labor unions to make unlimited contributions to independent organizations that use the money to support or defeat a candidate. The ruling led to the creation of “super PACs.”


Published: Friday 13 January 2012
“National polls support the notion of a more populist Republican base, and as the combined results of WSJ/NBC News polls over the last year show, blue-collar voters were slightly more likely to identify as Republicans than Democrats.”

There is a full-blown debate going on in, of all places, the Republican Party about the failings of the governing, corporate-sponsored kleptocracy. Not so on the Democratic side. Spared a primary battle, the incumbent president need not defend his economic record, which is basically a redo of the save-Wall-Street-first stance initiated by his Republican predecessor.

That bipartisan establishment consensus, in which the enormous power of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve was harnessed to bail out the financial industry swindlers while ignoring the plight of their victims, has been challenged only on the Republican side, where the libertarian Ron Paul has tapped into the enormous populist rage among voters.

There is no comparable dissent among leading Democrats, who have been loath to take on Barack Obama’s embrace of crony capitalism—that fatal melding of Wall Street wealth with Washington political power—the way Paul and even Newt Gingrich have powerfully challenged Mitt Romney, the GOP’s Obama doppelgänger.

Yes, doppelgänger, and please don’t try to scare me with those hoary tales of how Romney is the second coming of the far right on social issues, when his entire tenure as Massachusetts governor proved quite the opposite. The issue in this campaign is the economy, and on that, by the time of the general election, there will be no serious substantive difference between the two major parties’ candidates. Both will squarely be on the side of the financiers who created this crisis.

The attacks on Romney’s association with the rapacious Bain Capital could apply with equal force to the Clinton administration veterans whom Obama has entrusted with managing the nation’s economy. The list begins with Lawrence Summers, who pocketed more than $8 million in Wall ...

Published: Friday 13 January 2012
“The young are flocking to Ron Paul because he wants to slice military spending, bring our troops home, stop government from spying on American citizens, and legalize pot.”

South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint, the darling of the Tea Party wing nuts of the GOP, is urging Republican candidates to listen to Ron Paul. “One of the things that’s hurt the so-called conservative alternative is saying negative things about Ron Paul,” DeMint told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. “I’d like to see a Republican Party that embraces a lot of the libertarian ideas.”

Why the sudden enthusiasm of Republican leaders for Ron Paul? Credit his surprisingly strong showing in New Hampshire, where 47 percent of primary voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted for him.


Published: Monday 9 January 2012
“Santorum’s surge was easy to see coming. He was the last staunch conservative standing, unscathed by foolish mistakes or by Mitt Romney’s highly efficient and unaccountable manufacturing operation whose product is attack ads.”

love watching Republicans engage in class warfare. They condemn it as a sin when Democrats come within 100 miles of even mentioning the sharp and growing class inequalities in the United States. But when conservatives play the class card, they see it as a high ethical calling involving the defense of good and moral folk against the depredations of a liberal elite.

Rick Santorum gave by far the best speech Tuesday night after his boffo performance in the Iowa caucuses. Among the Republicans, he along with Jon Huntsman— and, yes, Ron Paul READ FULL POST 8 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 8 January 2012
“Ron Paul isn’t running to win the presidency, just as he isn’t in Congress to pass legislation. He seeks to reclaim the soul of American conservatism, and to him Santorum embodies its corruption.”

During the Republican presidential primary debates it has been evident that no two candidates despise each other more than Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Frequently when Paul spoke you could see Santorum shaking his head and rolling his eyes with an expression that seemed simultaneously aggravated and bemused.

It makes sense that they wouldn’t like each other. Their platforms are diametrically opposed.

Paul is a small-government conservative in the tradition of Barry Goldwater. He despises federal power and foreign policy adventurism.

Santorum is not so much a conservative as an interventionist. He would have the government intervene between a woman and her doctor. He advocates military interventions abroad. And while he wants to cut taxes for the rich and social spending for the poor, he has readily tossed aside his fiscal conservatism in favor of partisan or interest group politics.

Now the Paul campaign is going after Santorum. Paul’s hard-hitting ...

Published: Saturday 7 January 2012
“America is weary of war, especially weary of those, in retrospect, that had no real purpose — the one in Iraq, above all.”

The blogger Andrew Sullivan, typing faster than he could think, endorsed Ron Paul for the Republican presidential nomination. (He took it back, but we’ll get to that later.) Sullivan is British-born, Oxford-taught and, like so many from that sceptered isle, gifted in print and speech. Still, he somehow did not realize that if someone like Paul had been president in the 1940s, his homeland might have succumbed to Nazi Germany while America, maddeningly isolationist, sat out the war. No doubt, curriculum changes would have been made at Oxford.

Paul opposes just about all international treaties and organizations. He would have the United States pull out of the United Nations and NATO. He would do away with foreign aid, abolish the CIA and essentially turn his back on the rest of the world. This is pretty much what used to be called isolationism, and it allowed Hitler to presume, quite correctly as it turned out, that America would not interfere with his plans to conquer Europe, Britain included. It took Germany’s declaration of war on the United States, not the other way round, to get Uncle Sam involved.

The isolationism of the 1930s and early ’40s has come roaring back — in the person of Paul, I am tempted to write, but that is not exactly the case. The old isolationism was deeply conservative, both ...

Published: Saturday 7 January 2012
“But the real entertainment is likely to come when the two white-haired guys start going after about who did what in the war—or, in Gingrich’s case, who did what to avoid the war.”

Everyone is making a big deal about how Newt Gingrich is going to unload on Mitt Romney during the two broadcast debates preceding the New Hampshire primary.

Gingrich, we are told, is a stalker preying on the GOP’s leading contender. And sometime Saturday night (ABC: 9 pm ET) or early Sunday morning (NBC: am ET) he will pounce on the flouncy front-runner and rip Romney to shreds.

Unfortunately, this theory presumes that Gingrich has no ego, that the former Speaker of the House would sacrifice himself and whatever political prospects he might retain to take down the most unappealing Republican presidential contender since, um, the Mitt Romney of 2008.

Gingrich is very mean. Gingrich is very mad at Mitt Romney. And Gingrich ...

Published: Friday 6 January 2012
“Santorum recognized early on that not just first-caucus state of Iowa but the first-primary state of New Hampshire were ripe for his manufacturing message.”

Rick Santorum surged from (way) behind to secure a top-position finish in the Iowa caucuses for a lot of reasons: his ability to unite evangelical voters who through most of the campaign had divided their support among multiple candidates; a long-term strategy that saw him visit every Iowa county and personally interact with tens of thousands of likely caucus-goers; his status as a largely unexamined and unbattered “last man standing” alternative to Mitt Romney.

But there was something else that Santorum had going for him.

To a far greater extent than Romney, the venture capitalist who made his money dismantling American factories and offshoring jobs, and to a significantly greater extent than the wonkish Newt Gingrich and the ideologically rigid Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, Santorum appealed to blue-collar workers and to Iowans who would like to be blue-collar workers. And he’ll do more of that in New Hampshire.

Eschewing predictable “let-the-market-decide” rhetoric about free markets and free trade, 

Published: Thursday 5 January 2012
“The 2012 presidential election promises to be long, contentious, extremely expensive and perhaps more negative than any in history.”

The Republican caucuses in Iowa, with their cliffhanger ending, confirmed two key political points and left a third virtually ignored. First, the Republicans are not enthusiastic about any of their candidates. Second, we have entered a new era in political campaigning in the United States post-Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that unleashed a torrent of unreported corporate money into our electoral process. And third, because President Barack Obama is running in this primary season unchallenged, scant attention has been paid to the growing discontent among the very people who put him in office in 2008. As a result, the 2012 presidential election promises to be long, contentious, extremely expensive and perhaps more negative than any in history.

Mitt Romney technically prevailed in the Iowa caucuses, squeaking out an eight-vote margin over late-surging Rick Santorum. Libertarian Ron Paul garnered an impressive 21 percent of the vote in the crowded field. Note that the Republican Party does not allow a recount of the handwritten, hand-counted ballots, and that the final Romney edge was first reported on right-wing Fox News Channel by none other than its paid commentator Karl Rove, the architect of George W. Bush’s two controversial presidential election wins.

So, the prevailing wisdom is that while Willard Mitt Romney retains the veneer of “electability,” he cannot persuade more than 25 percent of Republicans to vote for him. Santorum’s surge was a late-breaking coalescence of ...

Published: Wednesday 4 January 2012
“It is rare in politics to have constituencies as clearly defined — and different — as the Iowa Republican caucus-goers who rallied tonight behind Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.”

It is rare in politics to have constituencies as clearly defined — and different — as the Iowa Republican caucus-goers who rallied tonight behind Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.

First, the split in the Republican Party is no longer between conservatives and moderates, but between members of the party who are very conservative and those who are only somewhat conservative. The days of Rockefeller Republicans are long gone. Close to half of Iowa caucus-goers thought of themselves as very conservative; a third said they were somewhat conservative. Fewer than a fifth were moderates, including a very tiny (and brave) group of self-described liberals.

Romney’s constituency is Republican Classic. He was the candidate of the “somewhat conservatives” and did well with the moderates, particularly moderate Republicans. (Moderate independents went strongly for Ron Paul — and thanks to Mike Dimock of the Pew Research center for sharing his insightful analysis for NPR of the difference between moderate independents and moderate Republicans.) Romney trailed badly with very conservative voters, running well behind Santorum in that group. Romneyites are much older: He was strongest among caucus-goers over 65 — which is presumably hopeful news for him in the Florida primary at the end of the month — and he also did well among voters between 45 and 64. But he did very poorly among voters under 45.

Rick Santorum, as he hoped to, won a lot of the same vote that Mike Huckabee carried four years ago. Santorum is clearly the right-to-life candidate: He carried voters who listed abortion as their deciding issue by a landslide. He was definitely the surge candidate: He handily won voters who said they decided in the last few days, though Romney did relatively well in this group, too, ...

Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“The 2012 Iowa Caucuses by the numbers.”

We bring you the 2012 Iowa Caucuses by the numbers:

20/19/18: The percentages for the top three GOP contenders (Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum) in an Iowa survey released Sunday by Public Policy Polling.

49: The percentage of likely caucus-goers who said last week in a Des Moines Register poll that their mind was still not made up.

1: The percent of the American electorate that lives in Iowa, site of the nation's earliest presidential contest.

5: The percentage of Iowa voters who participated in the 2008 GOP caucuses.

24: The percentage of New Hampshire voters who participated in that state's 2008 GOP primary (New Hampshire is the next contest after Iowa).

0.06: The percentage of American voters who will be caucusing on Tuesday in Iowa if turnout is the same as it was in 2008.

0.015: The percentage of American voters who will be voting Tuesday for the winner of the Iowa Caucuses, if recent opinion polls are accurate.

Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“The latest public opinion polls show Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney holding a narrow lead of 24 percent over Rep. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.”

Iowa is awash in millions of dollars of negative campaign ads funded by so-called Super PACs as voters head to their caucuses in the first real test of the 2012 election. “If you want to see the future of politics in America, turn on the television in Iowa,” says John Nichols, correspondent for The Nation magazine. “If it is this kind of overwhelming flood of negative ads, literally flipping on a dime to take down any candidate who rises in opposition to the mainstream, or kind of core Republican contender with the most money — it’s a pretty scary picture. And it is one that suggests that if we don’t get serious about addressing Citizens United [v. Federal Election Commission], we’re going to end up with a much uglier, more destructive politics." Nichols estimates the candidates and their PACs spent “$200 per vote” in Iowa. The latest public opinion polls show Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney holding a narrow lead of 24 percent over Rep. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Nichols says Santorum’s comments over the weekend about not wanting to "make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money,” highlight how Republican candidates have failed to reach out to Iowa’s many minority communities. Meanwhile, the Occupy movement has tried to inject the voices of the 99 percent into the race by holding protests at events and both Republican and Democratic campaign headquarters throughout the state.

Published: Monday 2 January 2012
Just since Thanksgiving, polls have shown momentum for Gingrich, former House Speaker; Paul, a Texas congressman; Romney, former Massachusetts governor, and Santorum, former Pennsylvania senator.

Shifts happen in the 48 hours before Iowa caucuses, and on Sunday it was clear that the outcome of the nation's first presidential voting Tuesday depends on a huge army of undecided, wavering Iowa caucusgoers.

Forty-one percent said they could still be persuaded to support another candidate, while 51 percent say their minds are made up, according to a Des Moines Register Iowa poll taken Tuesday through Friday.

McClatchy interviews with voters statewide found that they tend to like something about all six major GOP candidates but there's also usually something that makes them uneasy.

It could be Mitt Romney's changes in positions, Ron Paul's foreign policy, Rick Perry's gaffes, Newt Gingrich's history of controversy or a sense that Rick Santorum can't beat President Barack Obama.

Many voters were deciding by spending the holiday ...

Published: Sunday 1 January 2012
Romney began his day in New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first presidential primary Jan. 10.

Mitt Romney has a slim lead in the latest Des Moines Register Iowa poll, released Saturday evening, but Ron Paul is close and Rick Santorum is surging.

The results came as Republican presidential candidates spent the last day of 2011 Saturday making their closing arguments to curious, often uncertain voters as the race remained fluid.

In the Iowa poll, taken Tuesday through Friday, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, led with 24 percent of likely caucus-goers. Next was Paul, a Texas congressman, at 22 percent followed by Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, at 15 percent.

Trailing were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 12 percent; Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 11 percent, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, 7 percent.

But results Thursday and Friday only told a different story. While Romney still had 24 percent, Santorum was up to 21 percent, while Paul sank to 18 percent.

The poll capped a frenetic day of campaigning.

Gingrich blasted the Obama ...

Published: Sunday 1 January 2012
“The key to wrapping up a nomination quickly has always been an Iowa-New Hampshire one-two punch, and the Granite State, which votes Jan. 10, seems to be a Romney fortress.”

No matter what happens in Iowa, Mitt Romney has a safety net in New Hampshire.

And that could rank as the year’s most perilous sentence. Why shouldn’t Romney be surprised in the state that temporarily derailed Barack Obama’s supposedly rapid march toward nomination four years ago? Hillary Clinton humbled many a pundit here in 2008, reason enough to challenge the rapidly jelling conventional wisdom about the Republican presidential campaign.

In just a few weeks, Romney has been transformed from an embattled and weak front-runner into the real thing. He has a chance of winning the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday as his dazed opponents scratch at each other trying to emerge as the leading non-Romney.

Libertarian Ron Paul, who will never be nominated, now looks to be Romney’s main competition in Iowa. Paul is doing a fine job as Romney’s blocking back, preventing anyone else from emerging early enough to give Romney a stiff race.

The key to wrapping up a nomination quickly has always been an Iowa-New Hampshire one-two punch, and the Granite State, which votes Jan. 10, seems to be a Romney fortress. Romney’s headquarters here on ...

Published: Saturday 31 December 2011
The poll found 21 percent of likely caucus attendees list Romney as their second choice; 20 percent list Perry; 15 percent say Santorum; 13 percent list Gingrich; 11 percent name Bachmann; and 9 percent cite Paul.

With Iowa Republicans starting to make up their minds — and shuffling the deck of candidates — the 2012 presidential contest turned emotional Friday, just days before the state's caucuses kick off the voting for a GOP nominee.

Mitt Romney dropped his steel-eyed focus on potential general-election opponent Barack Obama to turn his fire on Texas Rep. Ron Paul, calling his chief rival here a fringe candidate.

Mitt Romney dropped his steel-eyed focus on potential general-election opponent Barack Obama to turn his fire on Texas Rep. Ron Paul, calling his chief rival here a fringe candidate.

Newt Gingrich, watching his support plunge under a withering assault of negative TV ads, choked up at one campaign stop while talking about his late mother, wiping away tears.

And Rick Santorum reveled in a last-minute surge of support after months of methodically working the back roads of Iowa, meeting voters one by one.

Their moods were buoyed — or dashed — as a new poll ...

Published: Saturday 31 December 2011
“His prescriptions for government and the economy may be misguided, to put it kindly, but his passionate support for the Bill of Rights is refreshing, especially because so many Republicans and too many Democrats are prepared to snip or even scrap that document.”

Even as Barack Obama gradually climbs in national polls, more than a handful of the president's once-ardent admirers suddenly seem more attracted to Ron Paul.

Long disappointed by Obama's overly solicitous attitude toward banking, defense and national security interests — at the expense of economic justice and civil liberties — these disappointed critics find a satisfying echo in Paul's assaults on the banks, the Federal Reserve, the military-industrial complex and, indeed, the entire American super-structure, including the miserably failed war on drugs. As a libertarian, he doesn't actually share the liberal perspective on these issues but sometimes sounds as if he does.

For some people, perhaps, that is enough.

As a seasonal fad unlikely to persist beyond Iowa, a minor liberal flirtation with Paul wouldn't matter at all. While he has provided much entertainment over the past few weeks, scaring the Republican establishment with his anybody-but-Romney climb in the polls, he undoubtedly understands that he will not be the nominee of their party (and in calmer moments, so do they).

His prescriptions for government and the economy may be misguided, to put it ...

Published: Thursday 29 December 2011
“It is hypocritical that Paul is now depicted as the archenemy of non-white minorities when it was his nemesis, the Federal Reserve, that enabled the banking swindle that wiped out 53 percent of the median wealth of African-Americans and 66 percent for Latinos, according to the Pew Research Center.”

It is official now. The Ron Paul campaign, despite surging in the Iowa polls, is not worthy of serious consideration, according to a New York Times editorial; “Ron Paul long ago disqualified himself for the presidency by peddling claptrap proposals like abolishing the Federal Reserve, returning to the gold standard, cutting a third of the federal budget and all foreign aid and opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

That last item, along with the decade-old racist comments in the newsletters Paul published, is certainly worthy of criticism. But not as an alternative to seriously engaging the substance of Paul’s current campaign—his devastating critique of crony capitalism and his equally trenchant challenge to imperial wars and the assault on our civil liberties that they engender.

Paul is being denigrated as a presidential contender even though on the vital issues of the economy, war and peace, and civil liberties, he has made the most sense of the Republican candidates. And by what standard of logic is it “claptrap” for Paul to attempt to hold the Fed accountable for its destructive policies? That’s the giveaway reference to the raw nerve that his favorable prospects in the Iowa caucuses have exposed. Too much anti-Wall Street populism in the heartland can be a truly scary thing to the intellectual parasites residing in the belly of the beast that controls American capitalism.


Published: Thursday 29 December 2011
“The real story of the last week in Iowa may be not of Gingrich’s campaigning but of where the anti-Romney sentiment that briefly rested with his candidacy will shift next.”

Newt Gingrich has chartered a bus to carry the former House Speaker and third wife Callista across Iowa in a final push for first-in-the-nation caucus votes.

But his campaign is not going anywhere. The new Public Policy Polling survey shows Congressman Ron Paul, the maverick libertarian from Texas whose disciplined campaign is the polar opposite of Gingrich’s, extending his lead, with 24 percent support. The Republican Republicans love to hate, Mitt Romney, is at 20 percent. Gingrich, formerly the leader in the race, has collapsed to 13 percent. Gingrich is just two points ahead of Congressman Michele Bachmann, who is at 11; and just three points ahead of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Governor Rick Perry, both of whom are at 10. The prospects that Santorum, Bachmann or Perry will finish ahead of Gingrich are real—and rising.

Indeed, the real story of the last week in Iowa may be not of Gingrich’s campaigning but of where the anti-Romney sentiment that briefly rested with his candidacy will shift next. If it goes, for instance, toward Santorum, this race could yet see another twist. And Gingrich will be watching from the sidelines, as the structure of the caucuses favors better-organized candidates with wild-eyed cadres. While Gingrich was an explosion waiting to happen, his collapse creates a whole new set of challenges for the Republican Party faithful that ...

Published: Wednesday 28 December 2011
Romney poked fun at Gingrich for failing to qualify for the primary ballot in Virginia and for likening the setback to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

With Christmas out of the way, the battle for the Republican presidential nomination resumed with gusto Tuesday, a still-wide-open race meaning a frantic dash in the final week before Iowa kicks off the voting Jan. 3.

Candidates poured back into Iowa, with Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich all launching statewide bus tours, joining Rick Santorum, who'd returned Monday. Ron Paul is scheduled to arrive Wednesday. The candidates, all Christians, had suspended campaigning over the Christmas weekend.

Ads also retuned to Iowa TV channels, restarting an air war that's cost an estimated $10 million, much of it spent on attacking onetime front-runner Gingrich as a flip-flopper who once backed liberal causes and a Washington insider who cashed in after leaving public office.

As they raced toward the voting, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney signaled confidence that he'll eventually win the nomination even if he doesn't win Iowa. Gingrich awoke to another challenge, with a report that he'd praised Romney's Massachusetts health care law, which is deeply unpopular with conservatives.

Before arriving in Iowa on Tuesday evening, Romney swung through his stronghold of New Hampshire, which holds its primary a week after ...

Published: Tuesday 27 December 2011
“When it comes to Ron Paul, his problem is that he has allowed his supporters and his newsletters and campaign literature in years past to actually say things in public that other candidates only say, or think, in private.”

It’s fascinating to watch the long knives coming out for Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul, now that according to some mainstream polls he has become the front-running candidate in the Jan. 3 GOP caucus race in Iowa, and perhaps also in the first primary campaign in New Hampshire.

Remember, we’re talking about a guy who has been in Congress on and off for 12 terms, dating back to 1976. His views have been pretty consistent, and because he has run for president several times, also pretty well known. A practicing physician who claims to have helped in the births of over 4000 babies in his career, the 76-year-old Paul is a free-market advocate, an abortion opponent, an uncompromising defender of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, an opponent of government regulation, the Federal Reserve and the IRS, and of big government in general--especially big federal government.

What’s interesting is what he’s being attacked for: being a racist, being “anti-Israel” and being an isolationist.

The racist bit is funny. After all, if we’re honest, the whole political infrastructure of the US is riven with racism. Just check out the public schools in any urban area, where you’ll find most of the students are non-white, or check out the schools in rural parts of the southeast in areas where most of the students are black -- compare the condition of those schools and the class sizes to schools in the white neighborhoods. Check out the wildly different jobless figures for whites and for blacks. Check out the (very pale) complexion of the student bodies at just about any state university, check out the skin tones of the judges on the US Supreme Court, or for that matter, the whole federal bench. Check out the racial breakdown of the nation’s jails, and especially on the country’s many death rows, where you’ll find a wildly outsized percentage of people with black or brown skin waiting to be killed ...

Published: Sunday 25 December 2011
“Thus, it appears that if Gingrich heads to the polls in his home state’s primaries on March 6, he would have to vote for someone else.”

There won’t be any homefield advantage for Newt Gingrich come Super Tuesday, when Virginia holds its presidential primary. Gingrich, who actually lives in McLean, Virginia, will not be listed on the ballot in his home state because his campaign did not collect the minimum signatures to be a contender.

The Republican Party of Virginia announced late last night that only former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) qualified to be listed. But Gingrich’s notoriously troubled campaign did not collect enough valid signatures to put him over the 10,000 signature mark required by state law, although Gingrich ...

Published: Sunday 25 December 2011
“Most Americans still could remember when this Darwinian ideology influenced policy and knew that the nation was not better off — except for a few robber barons — back in the days before Theodore Roosevelt inaugurated the Progressive Era, beginning a century of reform.”

The latest evidence of simmering racial resentment on the American political fringe showed up Monday in a Facebook post by a California man who urged the assassination of the president and his two daughters in obscene, racist language. Aside from the Secret Service, there was little reason for most of us to pay attention to this sick boob — except that he was identified as a local political leader of the tea party and an avid supporter of Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas Republican who now seems likely to place first in the Iowa presidential caucuses.

To those who have followed Paul's long career as a failed presidential candidate — these campaigns have become a family business — the appearance of yet another racist nutjob in his orbit is scarcely news. The newsletters that earned millions of dollars for him from gullible subscribers over the decades were often soiled with vile invectives against blacks and other minorities. He is a perennial favorite of the John Birch Society and kindred extremists on the right. He once refused to return a donation from a leader of the Nazi-worshipping skinheads in the Stormfront movement.

What is it about the kindly old doctor that attracts some of the most violent and reactionary elements in society to his banner?

For many years, Paul was merely an outlying crank in the ranks of the Republican ...

Published: Saturday 24 December 2011
“Newt Gingrich seems to be surrendering the lead he briefly held, the target of millions of dollars in negative advertising.”

Is Rick Santorum the next non-Romney to emerge from the pack? Could he conceivably win Iowa?

That these are plausible questions tells you all you need to know about the unsettled nature of the Republican presidential contest — particularly here, the state whose caucuses on Jan. 3 have become a bookie’s nightmare. At the moment, anyone among the six major candidates has a reasonable chance of coming in first or second, and the contest is becoming less settled as the brief Christmas interlude in campaigning approaches.

For example: If libertarian Ron Paul has a chance of triumphing anywhere, it’s in Iowa, where all his competitors acknowledge the energy of his organization. Establishment pick Mitt Romney’s opposition is so badly split that he could conceivably come in first and begin locking up the nomination — or he could emerge deeply scarred by finishing in the bottom tier. The line between success and failure is that thin.

Newt Gingrich seems to be surrendering the lead he briefly held, the target of millions of dollars in negative advertising. He still hopes to use jujitsu to turn all those negative ads in his favor, and at a factory here ...

Published: Friday 23 December 2011
“The only question is whether the evangelicals will coalesce around a candidate—arguably Santorum or Michele Bachmann—in sufficient numbers to push Gingrich into fourth or fifth place by the time the caucus count is done.”

Dubuque: Newt Gingrich was riding high there, for a week or so. His poll numbers were great nationally, and in battleground states such as New Hampshire and Florida, he elbowed more credible contenders—and also Mitt Romney—aside.

There really was a week there when Gingrich was the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

But that’s all over now.

In the 2012 Republican race, everyone gets to be the front-runner for a week, and Gingrich has had his week.

It’s done.

Now, Gingrich is tumbling. Fast. The attacks ads paid for by Super PACS associated with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have surely played a part in the former speaker’s steep slide in the polls—he’s now running third, behind Ron Paul and Romney, in the Real Clear Politics survey of surveys from the past week. And is several polls he has fallen to 

Published: Sunday 11 December 2011
The candidates also talked about the importance of marriage vows, a clear slap at Gingrich, who is in his third marriage.

Republicans threw everything they could at Newt Gingrich in a fiery debate Saturday night, increasingly desperate to stop his momentum toward the 2012 presidential nomination in the final weeks before voting starts in less than 4 weeks.

The former speaker of the House of Representatives responded with a combination of laughs and a steely determination not to let the charges go unanswered, particularly from chief rival Mitt Romney.

The spirited, two-hour debate was the first since Gingrich shot to the lead in polls in Iowa, prompting a round of challenges to his record as a Washington insider, his well-paid consulting work for the semi-federal mortgage agency Freddie Mac, his marital infidelities, and his recent statement that the Palestinians are an "invented" people.

"Speaker Gingrich has been in government for a long time... I spent my life in the private sector. I understand how the economy works," Romney said in an early criticism of the longtime politician.

"Let's be candid," Gingrich fired back. "The only reason you didn't become a career politician is because you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994," he said, when Romney lost a Senate bid. "You'd have been a 17-year career politician by now if you'd won."


Published: Friday 9 December 2011
“Last week in South Carolina, Gingrich scoffed at the idea that he needed to work as a lobbyist; after all, he noted, he is paid $60,000 a speech.”

Who would have thought that Republican voters would prove so accepting of sin? At least when it’s committed by a white guy, like the serial philanderer Newt Gingrich, who betrayed not one but two wives while they were enduring serious medical difficulties.

In the latest New York Times/CBS poll of Iowa Republicans, alleged philanderer Herman Cain’s once impressive support shifts to the new front-runner, Gingrich, whose richer history of marital deceit is not a problem even for the self-described evangelical Christian voters who favor him over Mitt Romney by a ratio of 3-1.

It is the first time that I have felt sympathy for a candidate experiencing the prejudice directed at a practicing Mormon. Clearly the ultimate of “squeaky clean” doesn’t cut it for a presidential contender of that faith among Republican Christian “values voters,” even when he is compared with a sexual roué of Gingrich’s considerable magnitude.

Or perhaps it is Newt’s peerless capacity to mask moral hypocrisy with the appearance of religious propriety, first as a Protestant and now as a Roman Catholic, that endears him to other Republicans who wear their religion on their sleeves. Many of those were willing to tear the country apart over the sexual wanderings of a Democrat in the White House, but now they are quite willing to send someone of ...

Published: Monday 5 December 2011
“A party that lived by the tea crowd in 2010 is being severely hobbled by it now.”


The contest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination has been described as a reality show and a circus. But what’s happening inside the GOP is quite rational and easily explained.

The obvious Republican nominee was Texas Gov. Rick Perry — obvious because his government-bashing, ideology-mongering, secessionist-flirting persona was a perfect fit for a Republican primary electorate that has shifted far to the right of Ronald Reagan.


The yearning for someone like Perry was inevitable. He combined the right views — actually, very right views — with experience as a chief executive that made him seem like somebody who was ready to be president.

Consider that even before he had gotten into the race, mere word that he might run sent Republican voters scrambling his way. He already had 18 percent to Romney’s 23 percent in a late July Gallup poll. Michele Bachmann was next at 13 percent. At that point, Newt Gingrich was at 6 percent and Herman Cain was at 4 percent.

After Perry announced his candidacy, he soared. The Aug. 17-21 Gallup ...

Published: Sunday 27 November 2011
“Maybe voters just wonder about a guy who’s willing to tailor everything to please his audience. Even his name.”

Moderator Wolf Blitzer opened Tuesday’s Republican debate by introducing himself and adding, for some reason, “Yes, that’s my real name.” A few moments later, the party’s most plausible nominee for president said the following: “I’m Mitt Romney, and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name.”

But it’s not. Mitt is the candidate’s middle name. His first name is Willard.

And people wonder why this guy has an authenticity problem?

The debate, held at Washington’s historic DAR Constitution Hall, was focused on foreign policy. The subject matter seemed to offer Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House, the opportunity to highlight his experience and perhaps begin consolidating his sudden front-runner status. But if he expected to dance rings around the others in the minefields of international politics, he was mistaken.


Published: Saturday 26 November 2011
“What the debate also revealed again is that a Republican who dares to utter a few words of compassion or realism is likely to prove unacceptable to the base of that party.”

Tasteless and questionable as it was for CNN to "co-sponsor" a Republican presidential debate with a pair of right-wing Washington think-tanks, at least the branding was accurate. There among the honored interlocutors were the authors of dismal failure and national disgrace in the Bush era, such as Paul Wolfowitz and David Addington, whose presence helpfully reminds us that to elect a Republican risks a presidency that will make the same gross moral and strategic errors, or worse. Listening to them talk about Iran, a nation that unlike Iraq or the Taliban is a real military power, it was clear that we will certainly edge closer to another war with almost any Republican in power.


What the debate also revealed again is that a Republican who dares to utter a few words of compassion or realism is likely to prove unacceptable to the base of that party.


Coming off his proposal to repeal child labor laws, so that schools can force 9-year-olds to do the work of "unionized janitors," it was surprising to hear Newt Gingrich appeal to human decency in resolving the immigration issue. But so he did, sensibly noting that deporting 11 million or more undocumented residents of the United States would be not only impractical but viciously cruel. It would mean ripping apart families that have lived here peacefully for generations.


"I'm prepared to take the heat," said the former speaker, rather courageously, for insisting that the law should be enforced "with humanity" — and his opponents, notably Mitt Romney, brought that heat to a boil, attacking Gingrich for supposedly supporting "amnesty," perennial buzzword of the anti-immigrant movement.


Actually, Gingrich doesn't back amnesty per se — which usually indicates a "path to citizenship" — but his position is close enough to mean trouble from the GOP's large ...

Published: Wednesday 23 November 2011
Gingrich said there is a difference between criminals and terrorists, and that they should be treated differently — criminals with all due process of civilian law, but terrorists treated under the rules of war.

Republican presidential candidates grappled Tuesday over how to balance civil liberties and security, as they engaged in a lively and substantive debate over how best to protect Americans from threats around the world.

With the Iowa caucuses, the nation's first political test of 2012, only six weeks away, the eight GOP hopefuls clashed over how to address U.S. trouble spots from Pakistan to the Mexican border.

The debate, co-sponsored by CNN and two conservative policy-research centers, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, was the first in 10 days and the first since former House Speaker Newt Gingrich vaulted to the top in several national polls.

The candidates generally refrained from criticizing one another sharply. Instead, they politely but aggressively clashed over how to restrain Iran, after the United States and its allies Monday increased financial pressure on Iran with new sanctions on that nation's central bank and energy sector.

"We need a strategy of defeating and replacing the current Iranian regime with minimum use of force," Gingrich said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry insisted the U. S. needs tougher sanctions against the Iranian central bank. ...

Published: Monday 14 November 2011
“While Gingrich had the Cheney style down, Romney went full Cheney with the groundless suggestion that Obama would do nothing to prevent nuclear proliferation.”

There is not a lot of fresh polling data on Dick Cheney. While it is fair to say that the numbers are probably a bit better than they were when the CBS News/New York Times team found in the final poll of the Bush-Cheney era that the outgoing vice president had a 13 percent favorable rating, there’s no evidence to suggest that Americans have warmed in any substantial way to the country’s chief advocate for war, torture, surveillance and secrecy.

Except, this is, for the Americans who are considered front-runners in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

With the exception of Ron Paul (who is actually right about a lot of issues) and John Huntsman (who is actually rational), the crowd on stage at Satirday night’s “Republican Commander-in-Chief Debate” in South Carolina oozed Cheneyism.

Mitt Romney, the frontrunner Republicans love to hate, and Newt Gingrich, the next alternative to Romneyevitability, sparred over who was more prepared to go nuclear with Iran. Gingrich advocated assassination (“taking out their scientists”) and massive disruption (“breaking up their systems, all of it covertly, all of it deniable”) as first steps. Then war. Romney went with rank partisanship: “If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if you elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.”

While Gingrich had the Cheney style down, Romney went full Cheney with the groundless suggestion that Obama would do nothing to prevent nuclear proliferation. Cheney points to Mitt.

 Gingrich upped the ante by fretting that the “Arab Spring” is becoming an ...

Published: Saturday 12 November 2011
The latest debate among Republicans was a tame one, but still needed factual corrections.

The latest debate among Republican candidates for president was a tame affair that produced few factual claims needing correction. Candidates stuck mostly to promises and expressions of their conservative faith in free markets, and their disdain for government.

The debate was held Nov. 9 at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., and included eight candidates: Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

We won’t go into the audience booing when Cain was asked about the sexual-harassment issue that has dogged him for the past week, or Perry experiencing a brain freeze when trying to remember the third federal agency he intended to eliminate upon becoming president. (He later remembered that it was the Department of Energy, which is responsible for the nation’s nuclear arsenal, among other things.) Our job is to look for false or misleading factual claims. And this time we found only minor quibbles. Here’s the sort of thing we mean:

Cain: $430 Billion Compliance Costs

Cain said Americans ...

Published: Friday 11 November 2011
“With the world watching, [Rick Perry] literally didn’t know what he was talking about. And from there it only got worse.”

At a time when nations that tax, spend, regulate and invest more consistently outstrip the United States in many measures of progress, leading Republicans speak only of smashing government and ending vital programs. In this constantly escalating rhetorical game, it became inevitable that one of them would eventually expose the emptiness of this vainglorious display. And it was unsurprising that the ultimate faker would turn to be Rick Perry.

The dim demagogue could scarcely contain himself during the CNBC debate last Wednesday night as he turned to Ron Paul, his fellow Texan whose sincere hatred of government verges on anarchism, saying: "I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education and the — what's the third one there? Let's see."

With the world watching, he literally didn't know what he was talking about. And from there it only got worse.

Grinning and groping for an answer, Perry flailed embarrassingly until Paul helpfully suggested "EPA?" But for some reason that didn't satisfy Perry, who smirked as if someone was trying to trick him into giving the wrong response. "The third agency of government I would — I would do away with, Education, the ..." For painful moments, he kept digging.

"Commerce and, let's see," said Perry at last. "I can't. The third one, I can't. ...

Published: Thursday 10 November 2011
“Pressed on the looming European debt crisis, the eight candidates sounded a similar refrain against any direct U.S. aid to stem it.”

Republican presidential candidates drew a bright line against government help for the private economy Wednesday night, whether it’s to bail out the U.S. auto industry at home or ease a debt crisis in Italy that could threaten the world economy.

"Europe is able to take care of its own problems," said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. "We don't want to step in and try to bail out their banks and bail out their governments."

“We are not going to pick winners and losers from Washington, D.C.,” added Texas Gov. Rick Perry, summing up a broad consensus among the candidates in a debate here.

The debate focused on the economy in an industrial state that's been in an economic slump for a decade, but it's more likely to be remembered for Texas Gov. Rick Perry's stumbling. Perry, who fell from the top tier of candidates in most polls this fall after weak debate performances, struggled Wednesday after he said there are three government agencies "when I get there that are gone."

Texas Rep. Ron Paul told him he needed five. Perry seemed flustered. He named the Commerce and Education Departments but couldn’t come up with his own third target agency. The Environmental Protection Agency was suggested.

"EPA, there you go," Perry said.

"Seriously, is the EPA the one you were talking about?" asked moderator John Harwood.

"No sir, no sir," Perry said, explaining that the EPA "needs to be rebuilt."

Perry tried again, citing the Education Department. He looked quizzically at the moderators. "Commerce and let's see, I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops," Perry said. Later, he said he’d meant to cite the Energy Department.

The clash among eight GOP candidates at Oakland University, in suburban Detroit, was the first since accusations began to surface that businessman Herman Cain had ...

Published: Saturday 22 October 2011
“There was little else said of substance at last night’s Presidential debate. Like most of these events nowadays, it seemed more like a beauty pageant.”

To say there's a lot that's wrong about Newt Gingrich's campaign is putting it mildly. (For one thing, its candidate is Newt Gingrich.) But he was right on the money last night when it came to the so-called "Super Committee."

There was little else said of substance at last night's Presidential debate. Like most of these events nowadays, it seemed more like a beauty pageant. Or like the red carpet at a Hollywood premiere, where self-indulgent celebrities try to act likable before an audience they both resent and loathe - all the more so because they need it.

Under these conditions we have two choices: We can either use this space to praise Newt for his burst of eloquence, or we can channel our inner Joan Rivers by making snarky comments about the candidates' fashion choices.

We'll go with praising Gingrich, even though Joan says his suit was several sizes too big. And those lapels! What were you thinking, Newt?


Here's what Gingrich said last night:

I mean, if you want to understand how totally broken Washington is, look at this entire model of the super ...

Published: Wednesday 19 October 2011
“Reports are now out that 84 percent of Americans would pay more under [Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax] plan," said former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. “You're talking about major increases in taxes on people.”

Republican presidential candidates brawled Tuesday over Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan and Mitt Romney's record on illegal immigration and health care, as rivals hammered the two top-tier contenders in the liveliest GOP clash of the 2012 campaign.

The sometimes angry clash at the Venetian Hotel Resort Casino featured Texas Gov. Rick Perry accusing Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, of “the height of hypocrisy” on immigration. Romney scolded Perry for interrupting him and said Perry was “testy.” And candidates were sometimes difficult to understand as they talked over one another.

Cain, the Georgia businessman who surged to the top tier of national polls in recent weeks, was under fire for his plan to scrap the federal tax code and replace it with 9 percent taxes on individuals, businesses and sales.

“Middle-income people see higher taxes under your plan,” said Romney, one of several candidates to pile on Cain from the opening minutes of the two-hour debate.

“Reports are now out that 84 percent of Americans would pay more under his plan,” said former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. “You're talking about major increases in taxes on people.”

Perry, whose poll numbers have tumbled after being perceived as having poor debate performances and who needed a strong showing Tuesday, joined the fray.

“You don't need to have a big analysis to figure this thing out,” Perry said. The Cain tax would add a 9 percent sales tax in states such as Nevada, which already has a sales tax rather than an income tax, and in politically important New Hampshire, where voters are accustomed to paying no sales tax.

“I don't think so Herman,” Perry added. “It's not going to fly.”

Cain brushed aside the torrent of criticism.

“It does not raise taxes on those making the least,” he said. “That ...

Published: Thursday 6 October 2011
“While some unions, especially the United Steelworkers nationally and the Tranport Workers Local 100 in New York, provided early backing, they were ouliers—until Wednesday”

The Occupy Wall Street movement’s political breakthrough came Wednesday, as leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus joined Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, in endorsing the burgeoning national challenge to corporate greed and corrupt politics.

On a day that saw thousands of union members, community activists and supporters of New York’s Working Families Party rallied in solidarity with the New York protests, Congressman John Larson, the Connecticut Democrat who is the fourth-ranking member of the party’s House Caucus announced that, “The silent masses aren’t so silent anymore.”

Nor were progressive groups. While some unions, especially the United Steelworkers nationally and the Transport Workers Local 100 in New York, provided early backing, they were outliers—until Wednesday. Liberal groups such as MoveOn and Democracy for America gave their blessings and started raising money to support the initiative. The 1.4 million member Teamsters union signed on, with President James ...

Published: Saturday 1 October 2011
The bipartisan disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law stopped when Texas Congressman Ron Paul was asked about the air strike that on Friday killed the two Americans in Yemen.

President Obama’s authorization of the assassination of an American citizen, New Mexico–born Anwar al-Awlaki—in a drone attack that also killed American citizen Samir Khan, who was raised in New York City and North Carolina—drew high praise from execution-enthusiast Rick Perry, who congratulated Obama by name for “getting another key terrorist.”

But the bipartisan disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law stopped when Texas Congressman Ron Paul was asked about the air strike that on Friday killed the two Americans in Yemen.

The congressman, who is competing with Perry and others for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has long complained about “war on terror” abuses that he sees as part of “the disintegration of American jurisprudence.”

And he was blunt in rejecting the victory-lap mentality that saw Obama Democrats and Perry Republicans celebrating the killing of American citizens.

“I don’t think that’s a good way to deal with our problems,” Paul said in New Hampshire. “Al-Awlaki was born here; he is an American citizen. He was never tried or charged for any crimes. Nobody knows if he killed anybody. We know he might have been associated with the underwear bomber. But if the American people accept this blindly and casually—that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys—I think it’s sad.

Noting that no move was made to assassinate Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was arrested, tried and executed,

Published: Sunday 18 September 2011
The lowest point of the evening of the debate — and perhaps of the political season — came when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul a hypothetical question about a young man who elects not to purchase health insurance.

We heard plenty of contradictions, distortions and untruths at the Republican candidates’ Tea Party debate, but we heard shockingly little compassion — and almost no acknowledgement that political and economic policy choices have a moral dimension.

The lowest point of the evening — and perhaps of the political season — came when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul a hypothetical question about a young man who elects not to purchase health insurance. The man has a medical crisis, goes into a coma and needs expensive care. “Who pays?” Blitzer asked.


“That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks,” Paul answered. “This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody. . . .

Blitzer interrupted: “But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?”

There were enthusiastic shouts of “Yeah!” from the crowd. You’d think one of the other candidates might jump in with a word about Christian kindness. Not a peep.

Paul, a physician, went on to say that, no, the hypothetical comatose man should not be allowed to die. But in Paul’s vision of America, “our neighbors, our friends, our churches” would choose to assume the man’s care — with government bearing no responsibility and playing no ...

Published: Friday 16 September 2011
Every one of the candidates vehemently insisted, with predictably enthusiastic applause, that President Obama's health care reform must go, immediately, if not sooner.

Watching the Republican presidential candidates and their agitated tea party supporters at the CNN/Tea Party debate, an ordinary citizen might feel confused. Those people sound angry, but exactly what do they believe our government should (and shouldn't) do on behalf of its citizens?

Ensuring affordable READ FULL POST 16 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 13 September 2011
In a sometimes intense debate full of charges and counter charges on a wide variety of issues, Romney landed strong blows on Perry.

The future of Social Security, a pivotal issue in retiree-rich Florida, seized the political spotlight at Monday’s Republican presidential debate as Mitt Romney tried hard to tar Texas Gov. Rick Perry as insensitive and overly eager to tear the popular system apart.

In a sometimes intense debate full of charges and countercharges on a wide variety of issues, Romney landed strong blows on Perry.

Perry, front-runner in most national polls for the last few weeks, also took hits from other candidates — blows that are likely to lead to questions about his political strength in the days ahead.

Romney, currently Perry’s strongest challenger, recited some of Perry’s past blasts at Social Security — the Texas governor called it a “failure” and a “Ponzi scheme,” among other things.

“The term Ponzi scheme is over the top,” Romney said, “and unnecessary and frightful to many people.”

Let’s have a conversation, Perry said, “rather than trying to scare seniors like you’re doing.”

“Governor,” Romney shot back, “the term Ponzi scheme is what scares seniors, and number two, suggesting that Social Security should no longer be a federal program and returned to the states and unconstitutional is likewise frightening.”

The duel between Perry and Romney, now running 1-2 in most polls of Republican voters, were the sharpest exchanges during the two-hour debate, co-sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express.

The event had an unusual feel to it. The hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds had a rally-like atmosphere, unusual for such a debate, as supporters of the grassroots conservative tea party movement from around the country dominated the audience.

They cheered Perry’s comments on Social Security, and applauded enthusiastically at the introductions of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who founded ...

Published: Saturday 10 September 2011
You can find America’s future in blueprints minted in business-funded think tanks 30 to 40 years ago at the dawn of the neo-liberal age: destruction of organized labor, attrition of the social safety net, erosion of government regulation and a war on the poor

Across two evenings this week, we've been offered America's future in a couple of visions. Neither of them offered the prime vitamin of bearable politics, the promise of good cheer and a better life at the end of a short-ish tunnel.

Version one came in the Republican presidential candidates' debate at the Reagan Library in California on Wednesday evening. This was Texan Gov.  READ FULL POST 9 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 6 September 2011
Romney believes Obama health care reform “has got to be stopped.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who as Massachusetts governor ushered in a state health care system that required residents to have insurance coverage, said his first task if elected would be to let states opt out of President Barack Obama's health care reform plan.

"That'll be one of my best assets if I get to debate President Obama," Romney said of his stance on health care during a GOP presidential forum Monday in Columbia. He said his plan impacted only 8 percent of people in his home state who lacked coverage, not all Americans as Obama's plan eventually would do.

"(Obama health care reform) has got to be stopped," he added, "and I know it better than most."

Vying to be the Tea Party favorite in a state increasingly known for its limited government/less taxes fervor, five leading GOP presidential contenders took to the stage, fielding questions from popular conservative U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint and the American Principles Project, a nonprofit encouraging a political return to constitutional principles.

Of the five candidates at the forum — Romney, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Godfather's Pizza chief executive Herman Cain — Romney received the highest approval ratings in the most recent poll of likely GOP primary voters in South Carolina.

But the top vote-getter in that same poll, Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who is leading in South Carolina by 20 percentage points — withdrew plans to attend Monday's forum to return to Texas to deal with wildfires there, after attending an event earlier in the day in Myrtle Beach.

Still, the state's First-in-the-South primary is months away, in February, with big names like DeMint yet to endorse.

U.S. Rep. Tim Scott of Charleston said Monday he was pleased to see Romney engaging with the state's voters. With few ...

Published: Sunday 4 September 2011
The move to block the ozone rules may make sense politically, since it defuses an issue on which Republicans were prepared to hammer Obama and the Democrats all year, but as a matter of public policy, however, it’s wrong

Republicans are trying to sell the false premise that protecting the environment inevitably means sacrificing jobs. President Obama should denounce this snake oil for what it is — rather than appear to accept it.

The GOP presidential candidates are in remarkable agreement on two articles of faith: The human imagination, apparently, is incapable of conjuring any circumstance under which any tax may ever be raised. And the Environmental Protection Agency is a sinister laboratory where Birkenstock-shod evildoers conjure regulations purposefully designed to rob Americans of their God-given jobs.


Actually, I’m being somewhat unfair to Mitt Romney, who tempers his EPA-bashing with the admission that he supports the agency “in much of its mission.” When he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney favored initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, perhaps even a regional cap-and-trade system. He doesn’t bring this up much on the campaign trail, but his opponents do.

The other contenders range from anti-EPA all the way to . . . well, to Michele Bachmann’s pledge to abolish the agency. Bachmann told an Iowa crowd last month that if she is elected president, “I guarantee you the EPA will have doors locked and lights turned off, and they will only be about conservation. It will be a new day and a new sheriff in Washington.”

At the GOP debate in New Hampshire, Bachmann added that “there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the Job-Killing Organization of America.” Newt Gingrich agrees that the EPA — established in 1970 by that noted tree-hugger, Richard Nixon — should ...

Published: Wednesday 17 August 2011
Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Michele Bachmann are being talked about as 2012 presidential candidates, but Ron Paul as a possible candidate is not being discussed

In Iowa's Ames Straw Poll this weekend, Michele Bachmann bested 2nd place Ron Paul by less than 200 votes. And yet, in the immediate spin cycle at least, pundits talked about Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Bachmann. Paul seemed to be, as his supporters always point out, invisible. Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart became the latest to weigh in on the habit of ignoring Paul. After playing a few highlight reels showing anchors going out of their way not to mention the libertarian firebrand, he incredulously asks:  "How did libertarian Ron Paul become the 13th floor in a hotel?"

Published: Saturday 13 August 2011
“The GOP field is in total agreement that compromise with Democrats and the majority of Americans who agree with them that deficit reduction must happen and must be done fairly is unacceptable.”

“Who wouldn’t take that deal, 10 dollars in spending cuts for every one in tax increases?” asked Fox News moderator Bret Baier, at the Republican presidential primary debate Thursday night in Ames, Iowa. Every single one of the candidates raised their hands, to loud applause.

It was, as Jonathan Alter later noted on MSNBC, an “iconic” moment. The GOP field is in total agreement that compromise with Democrats and the majority of Americans who agree with them that deficit reduction must happen and must be done fairly is unacceptable.

In general the debate featured unanimity despite the loud, petty arguments about who supported raising cigarette taxes in Minnesota (Tim Pawlenty versus Michelle Bachmann), and who said what about who (Pawlenty versus Mitt Romney). There was plenty of sniping, but no meaningful disagreement, except for Ron Paul versus Rick Santorum on Iran.

There were pledges of undying fealty to extremist ideology, but no practical explanations of how change would be achieved, other than Representative Michele Bachmann’s promise not to rest until Republicans win a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Of course, who doesn’t want to vanquish your ideological opponents? But when it comes to how you govern in a country where certain realities, among them the existence of Democrats, apply, the Republican contenders didn’t offer answers. ...

Published: Monday 8 August 2011
"Instead of basing its argument on economics, S&P made an ill-advised foray into political analysis."

The so-called analysts at Standard & Poor's may not be the most reliable bunch, but there was one very good reason for them to downgrade U.S. debt: Republicans in Congress made a credible threat to force a default on our obligations.

This isn't the rationale that S&P gave, but it's the only one that makes sense. Like a lucky college student who partied the night before an exam, the ratings agency used flawed logic and faulty arithmetic to somehow come up with the right answer. No, life isn't always fair.

And no, I can't join the "we're all at fault" chorus. Absent the threat of willful default, a downgrade would be unjustified and absurd. And history will note that it was House Republicans who issued that threat.

There is no plausible scenario under which the United States would be unable to service its debt. If political gridlock were to persist, our government would be able to pay bondholders with a combination of tax revenues and funds raised by selling more Treasury bills. And in the final analysis, as Alan Greenspan noted Sunday on "Meet the Press," the United States "can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that."

I know this kind of talk is horrifying to Ron Paul and others who believe we should be walking around with our pockets full of doubloons, but most of us find paper money more convenient.

What happened this summer is that Republicans in the House, using the tea party freshmen as a battering ram, threatened to compel a default. More accurately, they demanded big ...

Published: Monday 1 August 2011
"Ron Paul suggested that the Fed could destroy the $1.6 trillion in government bonds that it now holds as a way of getting room under the debt ceiling."

Economists believe that people respond to incentives. The fact that economists never suffer career consequences for failing to consider new ideas explains why they so rarely consider any policy that has not long been in the standard bag of tricks. I mention this background since it is relevant to the reaction given a proposal on the debt ceiling that Ron Paul originally put forward and that I subsequently endorsed. Paul suggested that the Fed could destroy the $1.6 trillion in government bonds that it now holds as a way of getting room under the debt ceiling. Debt to the Fed counts as part of the government debt subject to the limit. If the Fed destroyed $1.6 trillion in debt, then it would create a space of $1.6 trillion under the ceiling.

This is an interesting way of getting around the ceiling; although it would almost certainly require an act of Congress to do it. As it turns out, the other side of this story is even more interesting. The Fed plans to sell off the $1.6 trillion in government bonds it currently holds. It also plans to sell off more than $1 trillion in mortgage-backed securities it bought to help stabilize financial markets at the peak of the financial crisis. Following the logic of Paul's idea, I suggest that the Fed could simply hold on to large amounts of debt for an indefinite period of time. The interest on this debt would continue to be paid to the Fed and then be refunded to the Treasury—an effective and easy way to reduce the deficit that almost no one is talking about.

As long as the Fed holds onto the bonds that it currently holds, it receives the interest on them. Last year, the Fed refunded almost $80 billion in interest to the Treasury. Once the Fed sells off its assets, it will no longer be issuing these large refunds. Instead, the interest on the Treasury ...

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