Washington Post political blogger and de facto Mitt Romney surrogate Jennifer Rubin has posed some questions that she thinks should be asked of President Obama during the upcoming debates. Harnessing illogic and leaning on right-wing mythology, she wants the president to admit that his record on preventing terrorist attacks is worse than George W. Bush's, because there were no terrorist attacks on the U.S. under Bush after September 11, 2001.
No seriously. Here's the question she wants Obama to answer:
After Sept. 11, 2001, there were no terrorist attacks on the United States, but during your administration there have been the jihad-inspired Fort Hood massacre and the killing of four Americans in Libya, so isn't your anti-terror record worse than Bush's?
So Obama has to answer for Ft. Hood and the Benghazi attacks, but Bush gets a pass on the worst terrorist attack in American history. And when you neatly excise that horrific failure of intelligence and preparedness from the Bush terrorism ledger, Bush finds himself with a spotless record (the anthrax attacks, LAX shooting, DC sniper shootings, and attacks on various diplomatic personnel during the Bush years apparently don't count either).
The question refutes itself and evinces the sort of kneejerk partisanship and lack of seriousness that one would expect to find on a right-wing message board, and not under a Washington Post byline.
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin is defending Romney's attacks on President Obama over the deadly assaults on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Libya, writing that Romney's position is drawing support from "conservative foreign policy hawks."
Conservative foreign policy hawks, outraged at the media's circle-the-wagons reaction to the attacks on two embassies, are speaking out in defense of Mitt Romney.
Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton tells Right Turn: "The perception of American weakness that provided the foundation for these attacks is largely because of Obama administration mistakes and lack of resolve. A repetition of 1979 in Tehran is nor fetched, especially given the weakness of Obama's statement this morning." He dismisses the media storyline as pure boosterism: "The press criticism of Romney's statement is so clearly at the administration's behest that they are giving lapdogs a bad name."
John Bolton is, of course, a Romney campaign surrogate. So the fact that he's defending Romney isn't exactly surprising.
Rubin also notes that a pair of American Enterprise Institute scholars are also rallying to Romney's side, as is Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). But they remain in the distinct minority, as many prominent Republicans are showing reluctance to echo Romney's attacks on the president.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is facing a torrent of criticism from Democrats, tax analysts, and even a stray conservative or two over the lack of specifics in his tax proposals. But as per usual, there is one person who's standing by Romney, ready to fabricate any excuse she can in defense of the GOP candidate: Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, who is defending Romney's lack of detail by arguing (falsely) that President Obama doesn't have a tax plan.
Romney finds himself in this situation after both he and running mate Paul Ryan appeared on Sunday morning news shows and repeatedly declined to identify the tax loopholes they'd close to pay for the steep tax cuts their plan would put in place.
Rubin, who recalibrates her opinion on the specificity of Romney's tax plan depending on how it better serves Romney's interest, argues today that Romney's level of detail is less important than Obama's alleged failure to release a tax plan:
The media have accused Romney of being nonspecific about his tax plan. (At least he has both an individual and corporate one; the president does not.) He explained: "I can tell you that people at the high end, high-income taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions. Those -- those numbers are going to come down. Otherwise, they'd get a tax break. And I want to make sure people understand, despite what the Democrats said at their convention. I am not reducing taxes on high-income taxpayers. I'm bringing down the rate of taxation, but also bringing down deductions and exemptions at the high end so the revenues stay the same, the taxes people pay stay the same. Middle-income people are going to get a break."
This won't fly with the media (the same people who never ask Obama where his tax plan is or where his entitlement reform plans are), which will continue to press him for details.
For the moment, let's set aside the spectacle of someone with a Washington Post byline criticizing the media for wanting too much detail. The assertion that President Obama has not released a tax plan is flatly untrue.
If you paid attention to the political commentary leading up to Bill Clinton's speech last night at the Democratic National Convention, you might have noticed an odd phenomenon: Republicans and conservatives wistfully pining for the Clinton years. Why, 14 years after enthusiastically cheering on his impeachment, did conservatives suddenly warm to the 42nd president? Because they saw an opportunity to attack President Obama by unfavorably comparing his record to Clinton's. But now that Clinton's "rousing" endorsement of the president is on the books, the same conservatives who were singing Clinton's praises have reverted to type.
Case in point: Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin. Yesterday afternoon, Rubin wrote a post positing "the danger" for Obama in having Clinton speak on his behalf at the convention. Among those "dangers," according to Rubin, was that Obama doesn't share Clinton's authenticity and record of accomplishment:
On a personal level, Clinton was a deal-maker, a compromiser, a welfare reform signer, a budget balancer and never, ever remote or haughty. To the contrary, he perfected the affectation that he was one of us. Clinton is the un-Obama, the guy who worked with a Republican Congress and didn't alienate or demonize business. The Republicans are going to be in hog heaven splicing Clinton's language and accomplishments together with Obama's language and record.
Put differently, Hillary couldn't deify Bill like Michelle did for her husband, but neither can Michelle honestly brag about her husband's accomplishments the way Hillary could for Bill (I mean if she weren't in China, far, far away.)
And finally, Clinton is, alas, the past. Here is some scary math (if you are middle aged). A 25 year-old voter today was born in 1987.What he does recall of the Clinton years is probably the impeachment and Monica Lewinsky years. I hate to say it (because we're not so far behind), but Clinton is old and his history is now three presidential terms away. Nostalgia is not "Forward," not a reason to sign up for four more years of a failing president. You can agree with Clinton's message and also recognize Obama isn't the president who is capable of restoring the middle class, bringing down unemployment, etc.
Deal-maker, compromiser, "one of us" -- high praise indeed!
Then Clinton gave his speech. And Rubin had a change of heart.
From the September 2 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin argues with something approximating good faith that Clint Eastwood's performance at the Republican National Convention last night has become a positive for Mitt Romney:
Rattled and bitter that they could not knock the Romney-Ryan ticket off-message, the Obama team and its allies in the blogosphere fixated on Clint Eastwood. Listen, I was there and it was darn weird. But at times it was funny and devastating in its dismissal of the president's excuses. And in clips and sound bites the day after the live performance, the oddness is diminished and the punch lines seem more biting. In simple terms, the movie icon encapsulated the message of the convention: If someone is doing a bad job, you have to fire him.
Eastwood apparently so annoyed the egomaniacal president that the leader of the Free World felt compelled to hit back via Twitter ("this seat is taken") at the movie star. Talk about losing your presidential aura. Empty chair = Obama is now a powerful association. Will the chair be in ads?
In this, as in so many other artificial kerfuffles, the media's feigned outrage only serves Romney's purpose. Now everyone is familiar with Eastwood's cracks, and the conversation has taken the place of any criticism of the two nominees' speeches.
Here's the logic, if you can follow it:
Eastwood goes on stage at the convention minutes before the Republican nominee accepts his nomination and holds a baffling "conversation" with the invisible president he imagines is sitting next to him, and this is "funny and devastating" and this doesn't reflect poorly on Romney whatsoever.
But an oblique reference to this bizarre spectacle from the president's campaign Twitter account means Obama lost his "presidential aura."
In an attempt to shield Mitt Romney's campaign from criticism that many of its claims against the Obama administration are based on falsehoods, conservative media have resorted to attacking fact-checkers, accusing them of liberal bias or of "shilling" for the Obama campaign. This is in keeping with the position of the Romney campaign, which has said, "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."
Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post thinks the Romney-Ryan campaign has been exquisitely detailed in their explanations of their economic policies. And this puts her in rare company, since even the Romney-Ryan campaign says they're purposefully avoiding detailed discussions of the ideas they have in store for the country.
Writing on her Post blog this morning, Rubin gave the Republican ticket a high-five for their ability to "explain their plans" for Medicare and the economy:
Romney has his whiteboard to explain Medicare. Ryan has his charts and PowerPoint slides. They really can explain their plans and do the math. In this reality-based company, the president (who thinks ATMs cause unemployment) is out of his element. Hence, the resort to increasingly nasty language. If he had good answers for these questions, he might not be descending into the political sewer. Unfortunately for him, there isn't a chart that can explain how higher taxes are going to make our economic outlook rosier. The math just doesn't work.
"Do the math." Interesting choice of words, given that earlier this week, Paul Ryan told Brit Hume point-blank that they haven't been doing any math:
HUME: But what about [budget] balance?
RYAN: Well I don't know exactly when it balances because -- I don't want to get wonky on you but we haven't run the numbers on that specific plan yet.
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin has had it with busybody journalists pressing Mitt Romney to provide details for the policies he would implement as president:
The latest media obsession (or is it an Obama campaign talking point?) is to demand Mitt Romney explain how his budget and entitlement ideas differ from those Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). When he declines, the media screams, "Evasion!"
Why on earth would Romney answer that, and, more important, does anyone care? If the media is really interested in a compare and contrast exercise they can do their own analysis or ask some staffers. Romney, of course, is running at the top of the ticket, and both Romney and Ryan are running on Romney's agenda. All Romney need do is explain what HE is for and how that differs from the president's plans. Is there any voter who will decide to vote for or against Romney because of deviations from the plan his VP has proposed? That would be a first.
The details separating Romney's and Ryan's budget plans are moot, she argues, since the two agree on the "basic framework:"
The media might have a point if Ryan had criticized Romney's plans or if his own plans were vastly different from Romney's. But in basic framework there is no difference between the two. They both want to lower tax rates and expand the base. Both Ryan and Romney want to block grant and reform Medicaid. Both favor a premium-support plan for Medicare. In short, they are in sync on every significant fiscal issue, and Ryan has agreed to be Romney's VP.
It was to be expected that Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post's resident champion of all things Mitt Romney, would be enthused at Romney's selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, but her blog post this morning on the relationship between Ryan and Romney is an embarrassment for the paper. It's stuffed with so much pixie-dust-and-rainbows nonsense about the new VP nominee that it reads less like the analysis of a Washington Post political blogger and more like terrible fan fiction.
To wit, Rubin offers this observation on Ryan's attitude towards debt and deficits:
Early on (before George W. Bush left office) Ryan saw the looming debt crisis and the consequences of fiscal irresponsibility if new policies weren't adopted. In 2011, many conservatives, primarily at conservative think tanks and publications, hoped Ryan would be the standard bearer of those ideas as a presidential contender.
"Early on" in this context deliberately excludes 2001-2008, when the Bush administration was busily enacting the policies that not only erased the Clinton-era surpluses but also exploded the debt and the deficit. According to Rubin's own newspaper, Bush's policy initiatives -- the tax cuts (which weren't paid for), the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which weren't paid for), the Medicare prescription drug benefit (which wasn't paid for), etc. -- were the major factors driving the increase in debt.
Paul Ryan voted for the tax cuts. He voted for the wars. He voted for the prescription drug benefit. So what Rubin is saying is that Ryan was "early" to recognize the consequences of the Bush administration's "fiscal irresponsibility" after voting for the fiscally irresponsible policies.
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, last seen warning everyone not to take at face value unproven reports on Mitt Romney's tax policies, takes at face value an unproven report from the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz saying that a new National Intelligence Estimate shows Iran "has made surprising, significant progress toward military nuclear capability."
Rubin allows that this is unverified and that there might not actually be a new NIE, but even if there isn't, she argues, Obama's Iran policy has nonetheless failed:
Whether there is a new NIE report or not, no responsible policymaker thinks the 2007 NIE is accurate. If not a new NIE, then the leaking of a purported new NIE will have the effect of increasing pressure on the Obama administration, which has yet to concede that sanctions haven't done what they were designed to do, namely force Iran to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Foreign policy experts can debate whether a sanctions strategy was flawed from its inception, incorrectly assessing the motivations of the Iranian regime, or they can debate whether the execution of sanctions policy (too slow, too porous) was to blame. But we are more than 3 1/2 years into the Obama administration, and Iran is much closer to its goal than at the start. By any reasonable measure, the Obama approach has been a failure, whatever the NIE report might say.
So Obama's Iran policy is a failure, regardless of what the intelligence says, or if the intelligence even exists.
Right-wing media are accusing the Tax Policy Center of bias following its analysis that Mitt Romney's tax plan would cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans while raising them for lower- and middle-income Americans. But conservative media previously touted TPC as nonpartisan and experts agree that TPC's work is unassailable.
Yesterday morning, Washington Post blogger and de facto Mitt Romney surrogate Jennifer Rubin published a lengthy critique of the Tax Policy Center's recent report on Romney's tax plan. The TPC described Romney's goal of a revenue-neutral plan that does not raise taxes on lower income workers as "not mathematically possible." Rubin rejected the Tax Policy Center's analysis, calling the group both "left-leaning" and "very partisan." That's a far cry, however, from last October when the TPC released a report critiquing the tax plan of Romney's then-opponent Herman Cain, and Rubin touted the "independent" group's analysis as proof that "Herman Cain's math is wrong."
Here's Rubin on October 13, 2011, showing the TPC some love:
Herman Cain certainly has an issue. He's put all his chips on 9-9-9 and brazenly dismissed critics as know-nothings or misrepresenters of his plan. It's become obvious, however, that it is he who is trying to pull a fast on. First Read discovers what many of us have: The plan is highly regressive. Yet another independent set of eyes has looked at Cain's plan now:
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center is readying a report on Cain's plan, though it is waiting for more details from the campaign. But it has come to some conclusions already.
Cain's plan "cuts taxes for the rich and raises taxes on the poor," Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the center, tells First Read. He added that it would create a "much more regressive tax system."
The plan would represent a "major tax cut" for the rich and raise taxes "substantially" on the poor and middle class, Williams said. "Given that a big chunk doesn't pay any income tax, this would be a big tax increase on people at bottom end. At the top end, the opposite happens."
Fast forward to yesterday, as Rubin once again took on a TPC report on a detail-light tax plan from a Republican presidential candidate:
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote this morning that the media's coverage of the 2012 race is terrible because they're just not engaging with the substance of Mitt Romney's campaign. Citing Post columnist Ruth Marcus, she pegged "intellectual laziness" among the press as her chief concern: "I think 'intellectual laziness' in the media corps ('how much easier to critique a candidate's gaffe than to dissect his tax plan') is the most pervasive and serious issue."
Rubin's complaint was fortuitously timed for a couple of reasons.
First, it coincided with Alex Pareene's knife-edged examination of Rubin's own intellectual rigor. In short, Rubin's views on any given subject mirror those of Mitt Romney, which is to say that they're extremely malleable. Pareene wrote of Rubin's reaction to Romney's indecision on moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem:
"As for Jerusalem, it really is time to stop promising something that the U.S. can't and shouldn't deliver unilaterally," she wrote, in direct opposition to everything she'd ever written on the subject before. Romney has now, of course, come around again: He has made the pledge to move the embassy, and Rubin, predictably, has returned to her initial position.
Second, Rubin herself gave us a taste of that intellectual rigor this morning with her own "dissection" of Romney's economic proposals. Reading an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal from former Bush and current Romney economic adviser Glenn Hubbard, Rubin was impressed with the "four substantial policy initiatives" Hubbard laid out. Those allegedly substance-heavy policies are rote GOP boilerplate: Reduce federal spending, lower taxes, entitlement reform, and deregulation:
"Out of context" also does not mean "You misconstrued this sentence." Dems claim "You didn't build that" meant "You didn't build [those] bridges and roads." But the comment, however you interpret it, is perfectly in context with Obama's rag on entrepreneurs, who he claims steal too much credit, thinking they're so smart and work so hard. In fact, as I've pointed out, it was a favor to Obama to pick out the "build that" phrase since the rest of the speech was worse.
The self-defeating logic of this paragraph is ridiculous enough (why would the Romney campaign do Obama a favor?) but let's focus on her broader argument -- that attacking Obama over "you didn't build that" is just using his beliefs against him:
But from here on out, let's stop using "out of context" to mean "using my own statements against me." The latter is a tried and true political tactic, and both sides, not to mention the press, should stop bellyaching about it. It also might help, by the way, if pundits and the campaigns didn't use these rhetorical arguments to avoid the substantive arguments.
The left now seems to want to argue "out of context" instead of defending liberal nostrums. Liberals playing the "out of context" game apparently don't want to defend their belief that government should play a central role in the economy or that culture matters to the prosperity of a country. Go figure.
Here's the thing: no one is denying the idea that government plays a central role in the economy. What's getting all us excitable lefties agitated is when people like Jennifer Rubin use "you didn't build that" to argue that president exhibits "pernicious... antagonism toward wealth creation" and believes "wealth creation is threat to prosperity." Or that Obama has "an abusive relationship" to small business. Such sentiments bear exactly zero similarity to what the president actually said, and can only be arrived at by presenting "you didn't build that" in isolation and then building around it a crude caricature of an anti-capitalist radical.
That's why the context matters; it reveals a standard-issue liberal argument that isn't particularly controversial unless you have an interest in making it so. And the easiest way to do that is to take his words out of context. The Romney campaign and the conservative blogosphere aren't hammering away at "you didn't build that" because they want to do Obama a solid.