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President Obama and Mitt Romney held their second of three debates Tuesday night. Readers may recall, as a fact-based true-believer, I called the first debate in Obama's favor - polls said differently. Apparently we decide debates based solely on gumption and eye contact.
Well, as Biden preluded, this debate played out quite differently. Obama was pugnacious, truculent and militant, or to put another way: Red Bull gave him wings.*
Where before Obama performed with a smug docility, this time around he contested every Romney statement. And while uncivil - about damn time.
Romney (and more recently Ryan) have been playing fast and loose with facts, figures and promises this entire election cycle, banking on the current state of journalism to let their claims go untested.
Well, this time Obama held Romney accountable, and the polls are rewarding him. Probably the best knock-out exchange was Romney's aggressive assertion that Obama failed to call the attack on the Libyan embassy an act of terror.
Obama did in fact call the deaths of four Americans an "act of terror" immediately, but waited for two weeks to definitively establish it was a planned attack, and not a response to an offensive YouTube video.
Ladies Love Cool Mitt:
The debate was a Town Hall format, and many of the questions from undecided voters revolved around domestic policy. One woman asked the candidates:
"In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace? Specifically regarding females making only 72% of what their male counterparts earned?"
Obama mentioned the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which he signed into law the day he took office.
Romney went another direction, telling an anecdote about hiring women when he was the Governor of Massachusetts, and how he sought out "binders full of women".
The Internet exploded with "Binders Full of Women" memes, but I failed to find this as notable as his total inability to answer the question. In response to an answer about fair pay for women, Romney told a factually incorrect anecdote about hiring women when he was the Governor of Massachusetts. No mention of whether his female binders were paid as much as his male binders. In addition he added that female employees needed more flexible schedules so they could make it home in time to cook dinner.**
Romney claimed to have sought out more women on his own, but the true story was a non-partisan group of women hoping to see more equal representation pushed candidate Romney and his opponent to agree in advance to hire more women. He did.
Romney also claimed that 580,000 women lost jobs under Obama. This number is made up.
Guns Don't Kill People, Single Mothers Kill People:
One of the benefits of a Town Hall forum is voters get the chance to ask questions that the campaigns have otherwise managed to avoid. As was the case when one voter asked the candidates how they'd limit access to assault rifles.
"Weapons that were designed for soldiers don't belong on our streets," said Obama, and went on to say he'd like to see an Assault Weapons ban introduced. (Which realistically is unlikely to pass through the Tea Party controlled House of Representatives.)
In contrast, Romney stated that he wasn't in favor of any new legislation, and instead, the answer was good schools and two parent households:
"Gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies they ought to think about getting married to someone, that's a great idea," said the candidate who's vowed to defund Planned Parenthood.
Parents to Mexico, Children to Iraq:
The one last moment that really stood out was the candidate's response to immigration policy. Romney declared he wouldn't allow amnesty for anyone who was here
"illegally" without documentation, and doubled down on the "Self Deportation" statements he made during the Republican Primary. He did concede that children of undocumented immigrants who grew up here could stay, but added that "military service for instance is one way they would have that pathway."
This of course is the same character who dodged the Vietnam draft to be a Mormon missionary in France and lamented how much easier this election would be if he was Latino.
On the other hand, Obama has been no champion of immigrant rights. He has deported undocumented immigrants at approximately 1.5 times the rate as George W. Bush. But he did admit "we need to fix a broken immigration system" and told the audience "I've done everything I can on my own." He also used the term undocumented workers, in contrast to Romney's use of the term "illegals", which is overwhelmingly considered offensive.
One more debate to go. Also, check your mail - ballots are arriving here in Washington State. Once again full video after the jump:
The first presidential debate went off last night, and bars in Seattle were packed. I personally watched the back and forth at Moe Bar surrounded by jeering drunk Seattleites while sipping on a double.
Which may be why I was so confused at the end when the media at large proclaimed Romney the winner.
Goofus v. Gallant
The general consensus was that Romney was the winner based on his aggressive attacks and Obama's weak rebuttals. But all I saw was Romney spouting make-believe and Obama grinning through it all.
Historically the first debate in any Presidential election favors the challenger. This trend is even more pronounced when the challenger has led such a bumbling campaign. While both campaigns were trying to play the low expectations game in the debate lead-up, Romney's been doing it for 9 months.
Romney's camp "leaked" the news that they were preparing pre-planned zingers for the debate. But the closest thing to a Romney zinger was probably this:
"The place you put your money makes a pretty clear indication of where you heart is." - Says the guy who left his heart in the Cayman Islands.
On the other hand, I'd credit Obama with getting a few good knocks, including his retort on the Romney/Ryan plan to privatize Medicare. When Romney assured current retirees that Medicare was safe for them, Obama replied "if you're 54 or 55, you might want to listen, because this -- this will affect you.."
Just the Facts
Much can be said about impressions and zingers, but when it comes to whose arguments were factually accurate, Obama comes out drastically ahead.
While it's fair to say there were times Obama laid out arguments and numbers that were vague or cherry picked, Romney's statistics and proposals were straight out of Narnia.
Obama told voters that Romney's tax plan amounted to a $5 trillion dollar tax cut, which would add to the deficit or take away programs middle class Americans use.
Romney denied the claim. But The Washington Post finds that lacking any specificity on what loopholes Romney would close, the truth lies with Obama.
Romney's claim that Obama is raiding $716 billion from Medicare is patently false. The number comes from the lowering of payments to doctors and hospitals under Obamacare, not any money taken from seniors. While doctors could gripe about these cuts, the claim comes across exceptionally hollow from a man whose running mate would cut just as much in his plan to privatize Medicare.
Romney also stated that the Congressional Budget Office found that 20 million people will lose their insurance if Obamacare is enacted. Politifact ruled that a big old lie back in June.
The debate was 90 minutes long and brimmed with more falsehoods.
Overall I think a lot of people wanted to see Obama do more of the fact checking during the debates. Maybe he could have. But the news networks for the next few days will have plenty of time to call Romney on his claims. And Obama has two more debates to stand up for the truth.
Over the weekend, Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as
the next president of the United States his running mate.
Ryan being named the Vice Presidential candidate is a huge deal, in no small part because Ryan is well known as an incredibly far-right Republican in the House. Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future", release in 2008 and again in 2010, set the stage to slowly kill Medicare, raise retirement ages, privatize social security (Grandpa needn't retire during economic slumps or market crashes), and cut taxes for the super-wealthy while offering no help to the middle class.
Mitt Romney spokesperson Erik Fehrnstrom compared the Republican Primary to an Etch-A-Sketch back in March. His point: the Republican Primary was all about appealing to a base that was ultraconservative, and Romney would switch gears during the general election to appeal to a more moderate America.
At the time, I believed him. Romney's gay-rights supporting,
ObamaRomneycare creating, moderate record as Governor of Massachusetts made it easy to think Romney was appealing to the Republican base and would pivot back during the general.
But Paul Ryan as VP shatters any chance of Romney appealing to moderates. Moderate voters don't like replacing guaranteed medical coverage for Grandma with a voucher program that won't keep up with rising insurance costs.
No matter how hard you shake.
Curious as to the sudden proliferation of Mitt Romney-inspired Venn Diagrams? I know I was when I woke up this morning and saw them festooned across all my social networks.
Turns out, team Romney decided to take creative license with a Venn Diagram in order to illustrate some of the failed promises of Obamacare:
I say creative license because a Venn Diagram is meant to illustrate commonality and overlap between two groups. Perhaps the Romney team would have had more luck with a bar graph, or even just
Unfortunately, the Internet at large isn't always kind to out-of-touch millionaires, and has responded with a slew of actual Romney Venn Diagrams.
Mitt Romney vs. Bruce Wayne after the jump.
This is the best thing I've ever seen. And I've seen a double rainbow.
Washington's Republicans held their caucuses Saturday, and according to the GOP, Washington is Romney country. The former Massachusetts Governor garnered the support of 38% of caucus-goers, a relatively large margin compared to 25% for Ron Paul, 24% for Rick Santorum, and a dismal 11% for the foundering Newt Gingrich. I spent Monday much like the Monday after my 21st birthday: trying to figure out what the heck happened on Saturday. It's still a bit early to come up with some unifying narrative of the Republican race in Washington, but here are some highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective):
-Turnout was great. We don't have final numbers yet, but it's estimated that 50,000-60,000 people attended the caucuses. Washington Republicans have bucked a national trend: turnout has been down in most early contests.
-There can be a downside to high turnout: The Seattle Times is reporting around 1500 would-be caucus-goers were turned away in Kennewick. Officials told them the venue was at capacity. The local GOP leadership has apologized.
-Big names in the state GOP endorsed Romney. Secretary of State Sam Reed was a supporter, as were 3 out of our state's 4 Republican Congressional Representatives (Dave Reichert, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and Jaime Herrera Beutler). The odd man out, Rep. Doc Hastings, didn't endorse anyone.
- The support of The Seattle Times is always a big deal, but the editorial endorsing Mitt Romney for the 2012 caucuses is notable more as a journalistic oddity: a merciless, scathing endorsement. It's so hard on the guy that it verges on comedy.
- Has Ron Paul gamed the system? The majority of Washington caucus-goers supported Romney, but the Paul campaign has a strategy that they think could give him the majority of our delegates. Over at The Stranger, Eli Sanders talked to one of Paul's "Manchurian Delegates."
Compared to the way most of the world does democracy, the caucuses are a little strange, and the national 2012 Republican race has been far more than a little strange, but despite the flaws our hats are off to anyone who takes time out of their Saturday to get involved in such an important process. Good work, Washington Republicans, and we'll see you in four years.
As someone who's been following the ongoing coverage of contraception under the Affordable Care Act, I was a little surprised by today's New York Times blog post titled the "White House May Look to Compromise on Contraception Decision".
The article quotes David Axelrod, one of Obama's top re-election advisers, saying the president would "look for a way to address vocal opposition from religious groups."
Catholic ministers have been in an uproar regarding the decision that birth control will be considered preventative medicine, and therefor covered at no-cost under the Affordable Care Act.
"In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
And Mitt Romney is using the issue as a campaign issue, tweeting a link to a petition stating:
"On January 20, 2012, the Obama administration affirmed a rule that would force Roman Catholic hospitals, charities, and universities to purchase health insurance for their employees that includes coverage for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization, in violation of their religious principles. This is wrong."
Another Republican Primary is over, and once again Mitt Romney "is the clear frontrunner" in the race to face Barack Obama in 2012.
While reasonable minds tire of the ongoing game of leap frog Romney, Gingrich, Santorum and Paul have been playing since the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd, it's hard not to be transfixed as the battle unfolds state after state.
What did we learn?
I'm discerning enough to only be a huge fan of a few things: Party Rock, Politics, and Pink.
Which is why I was utterly amazed to learn that LMFAO's Sky Blu got in an altercation with Mitt Romney aboard an Air Canada flight over something as silly as seat elevation. How did I miss this?!?!?
Allegedly Romney was so perturbed over Sky Blu's reclined seat that he grabbed the rapper's shoulder. This in turn led the musician to punch the would-be-presidential nominee.
Red Foo, the other half of the duo put up an 8 minute clip explaining their side of the incident.
The best part? (Besides ya-know, the whole thing.)
When asked if he would vote for him, Sky Blu responded: "No, because I'm a Democrat. He's a Repub."
Oh man, first that tax fiasco. Now the loss of a crucial endorsement. What's next for poor Mitt?
I don't even know where to start on Mitt Romney's tax returns, which were conveniently released on the day that the State of the Union was sure to steal the media's attention.
Mitt Romney's effective tax rate is 13.9%. United States citizens who make less than $8,500 a year pay a tax rate of 10%, and people who make less than $34,500 pay 15%. Which means that he's paying a smaller percentage of taxes than someone working full time at the Federal Minimum Wage of $7.25 an hour. (7.25 x 40 x 52 = $15,080).
Not spending money Saving and investing is not harder than working an hourly job. Mitt Romney could wake up each morning at 6AM, drink two bottles of Nyquil and go back to sleep and he still would have earned $57,000 a day. What hourly worker paying 15% taxes can say the same about their job?
Slate.com has a lovely little calculator to show how long Mitt would have to work in order to earn your salary. Romney made my annual salary of approximately $19,000 in 7 hours, 41 minutes, and 1 second. Alternately, I'd just have to work a little over 1,140 years to earn what he pulled in in 2010.
And if Romney wins and is able to enact his tax plan, he'd pay 40% less than he would otherwise pay in 2013 (assuming the Bush Tax cuts expire and the Affordable Care Act's tax on investment income is enacted as planned).
The good news about all this? There's no way this can't hurt Romney with 99% of voters. (Read: voters who self-identify as part of the 99%. There's a surprisingly high portion of 99%er's who come to the defense of billionaires.) Obama can easily use this against Romney, as will Newt, Santorum, and less likely Ron Paul.
Of course, Jon Stewart probably has the best take on it. Click play.
A group of professors and students from the University of Washington are down in South Carolina reporting on the presidential primary tomorrow and the surrounding hullabaloo. They're providing some refreshing local flavor to complement the national coverage in the state that has the ability to crown Mitt king of the GOP.
In a near three-way tie of the Iowa state caucuses last night between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul, the clear victor was Seattle's own Dan Savage.
In a count that went on into the night, Mitt Romney pulled out in front of Santorum's statewide spread by a total of 8 votes. Romney garnered 25% of the state with 30,015 votes, Santorum at his heels with another 25% and 30,007 votes, and Ron Paul with 22% and 26,219.
Santorum won the majority of the counties, but was unable to make up for Romney's victories in high-density areas.
Image (and color choice) credit: FoxNews.com
What does all this mean for the inevitable 2012 Republican vs. Democrat action? Not much. Also, a whole lot! Iowa's caucuses are the first in the country, and therefore get a lot of media attention. But after the Hawkeye State's 15 minutes of fame, their effect on the general election is minimal. In 2004, Mike Huckabee won Iowa with 34% of the vote and he's now President of a talk show, and in 1992, Bill Clinton received 3% of the vote and still went on to become the Democratic Nominee and the President.