Archive for September, 2007

“For two years, I worked as an adviser to George Bush. Now I work as an occasional, unpaid adviser to Mitt Romney,” writes Harvard Professor Greg Mankiw in an hysterically funny and risibly transparent attempt to ward off the richly deserved stigma of associating with Willard Milton Romney, preposterously titled On the Ethics of Advising.

To my constant surprise, some letter writers and some commenters on this blog presume that I must agree with, or be responsible for, every position they take. That is a deeply silly assumption. [emphasis ours]

Note the nearly impossible standard that Mankiw sets. Question: Must one presume that Mankiw agrees with everything, or is responsible for every position that an advisee takes, to question Mankiw’s judgment for issuing advice to a figure as morally or ethically questionable as e.g. Willard Milton Romney?—answer: no, certainly not.

Back to Mankiw’s apologia:

Presidents and candidates have to make decisions on a multitude of issues. It is unreasonable to expect any adviser to agree on every single issue. Indeed, politicians listen to many advisers with different points of view. An adviser cannot resign in protest every time a decision fails to go the way he advised. The system could not function if people acted in such a self-centered way.

Consider: Should an economist who believes abortion is murder refuse to advise Barack Obama on tax reform? If this economist chooses to become an Obama adviser and Obama wins, is she then complicit in all the abortions that result from President Obama’s pro-choice policies? If her advice on tax reform is only partially followed, should she resign her position as adviser? If she continues as an Obama adviser, is she then responsible for all policy positions that Obama takes? Is she even responsible for Obama’s tax-reform proposal?

My answers are NO, NO, NO, NO, and NO. In my book, the adviser is responsible for the advice she gives, and Obama is responsible for the positions he takes.

Maybe I am being too easy on economic advisers, like Milton Friedman, myself, and my hypothetical Obama adviser. But I worry about what happens when sanctimony leads people to put too high of a moral “tax” on advisers from academia. Most academics avoid politics altogether, preferring the relative comfort and better compensation of life in the ivory tower. The uglier the world of politics becomes, the fewer academics will venture forth with their input, and the poorer everyone will be as a resultmore

Comment: We certainly understand the good professor’s discomfort with being associated with Willard Milton Romney. But it is overwrought to compare himself to Milton Friedman, or to argue that to not advise a figure like Romney would somehow mean that fewer academics would “venture forth with their input.” (Please, professor; simply take responsibility for your actions—however ill-advised—and carry on. Allow dignity to be your standard.) That the professor has any misgivings at all speaks volumes—please note the all-caps NO, NO, NO, NO

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Most Americans probably are not intimately familiar with Huawei (pronounced “Wa-way,” as if Gilda Radner of Saturday Night Live fame were asked to pronounce the name). The company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei is a former officer of the People’s Liberation Army,” writes the estimable Charles Cooper for CNET’s Tech news blog in a post titled Mitt Romney’s communist connection

Tough to know what to make of that. When it comes to speaking with the press, Ren is a regular Greta Garbo. A mini-profile Forbes ran three years ago noted that many of Huawei’s major customers are state-run businesses in China. And while Ren owns 1 percent of the company, the rest belongs to an unidentified “union.”

Go figure.

Meanwhile, Ren has gone about building Huawei into a success story disregarding the usual corporate niceties. In 2000–three years before the WMD craze got us all nutso about taking out Saddam–the CIA accused Huawei of secretly selling a communications system to Iraq. In the final report of the Iraq Survey Group, Huawei and two other Chinese companies were singled out for carrying out “extensive work in and around Baghdad”–mainly telecommunication switches and the installation of fiber-optic cable.

Then in 2003, Cisco socked Huawei with a patent infringement lawsuit. Cisco claimed Huawei ripped off its intellectual property to make a lineup of routers and switches. Huawei denied the allegations though in the end caved.

But if at all possible, business doesn’t let politics intrude. So it is that Friday we learned that Bain Capital is paying $2.2 billion to acquire 3Com. Part of the deal involves China’s Huawei Technologies, which will acquire a minority stake in 3Com.

And, oh, by the way, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor running for the Republican presidential nomination–he headed Bain Capital for 14 yearsmore

More on Romney’s web of corruption:

evidence of Romney corruption and incompetence continues to build; GOP needs to start thinking post-Romney

Was it really hard work and clean living that issued in Romney’s vast personal fortune?—we mean, really?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Context: Romney issued his typically noisy stump-speech jeremaids and scolding op-eds on the issue of Ahmadinejad’s addresses to the UN and Columbia University.

The response?—predictable. Consider

“Voters expect a certain amount of malarkey in political ads designed to press emotional hot-buttons,” begins a section of a Boston Globe editorial subtitled Romney: I run, therefore Iran

But the recent campaign ad for Mitt Romney exploiting anxieties about Iran sets a new standard for cynicism. The radio ad lauds Romney for denying a State Police escort last September for the reformist former president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, when he visited Harvard and MIT. The reality was that Khatami was escorted everywhere by the State Department’s special security force for foreign dignitaries. Romney insulted Harvard and MIT more than Khatami when he called their invitation to him “a disgrace.” Instead of showing that Romney can be tough on terrorism, the ad suggests that Romney has little idea who Khatami is or what his role had been in Iran. Toughness may be a desirable quality in a president; indifference to the complex realities of foreign hot spots is not more [emphases ours]

Or consider:

“Another Republican contender, Mitt Romney, grandstanded even more shamelessly [about Ahmadinejad's visit and address], proclaiming that the Iranian shouldn’t have received an entry visa in the first place,” argues Jesse Walker in a reasononline article titled Who’s Afraid of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? After all the trembling, the Iranian president got a bruising instead of a boost.

 If you suspected that Silver and Hunter represent just a tiny sliver of the electorate, Romney’s statement should give you pause. Romney isn’t an ordinary flesh-and-blood candidate, after all; he’s a machine calibrated to say whatever is most likely to emerge from a focus group of Republican primary voters more [emphasis ours]

For more on the evolving Romney-rhetoric, see:

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“From Mitt Romney’s headquarters in Boston, they issued a call to the online video editing masses. And the call was answered…sort of,” writes the estimable Antonio Vargas in a post titled Mashing Mitt Romney for WaPo’s The Trail.

Nearly a month after asking his supporters to create a TV ad by using an archive of photos and audio and video files provided by the campaign, Ryan Whitaker, a 23-year-old student at Romney’s alma mater, the Mormon-run Brigham Young University, has been named the winner of Romney’s “Create Your Own Ad” mash-up contest.

Out of 129 submissions, 9 videos made the final round, with finalists chosen based on the campaign’s favorites and the number of views and positive ratings (called “loves”) they received on the online video site Jumpcut. That’s also how the winner — a dynamic, expertly-edited spot created by Whitaker– was selected. Aides to Romney said the winning video will air at the end of the month, possibly in the early voting states of Florida or South Carolina.

The results show that the online public takes its ad production responsibilities seriously, with many professional-looking spots. But while the quality was high, the quantity was not. For a contest open for more than two weeks, 129 submissions seems a small number — a reflection, perhaps, of the former Massachusetts governor’s relative obscurity among voters.

Imagine if a similar contest had been held for supporters of Rep. Ron Paul or Sen. Barack Obama, both of whom have consistently led their respective fields in the total number of YouTube views, MySpace friends and Facebook supporters, three ways of measuring online popularity. (Number of MySpace friends? Paul: 64,572. Romney: 30,520. Number of YouTube views? Paul: 4.2 million. Romney: 2.2 million.) But as Micah Sifry of TechPresident.com, which tracks how the candidates are campaigning online points out: “Look, it’s not easy to make an online video. Making an online video is far harder than writing a blog post.” Indeed. Still, Dan Manatt of PoliticsTV.com, which creates news and satirical online videos, counters: “If the contest response is an omen for the primaries, Romney should be worried. MoveOn.org’s ‘Bush in 30 seconds’ contest” — the liberal group asked members to create an anti-President Bush spot — “got 10 times more responses than Romney got. And that was in 2004, before Web video was even big”

… Online video has turned into the big X factor– the YouTube effect — of this campaign. Sen. Hillary Clinton showed her cool, hip side with her “Sopranos”-inspired video in June and when she announced the winner of her help-me-pick-a-campaign-song contest. Earlier this week, while touting his re-designed site, John Edwards plugged his voting reform initiative by asking supporters to become “Why Tuesday?” video correspondents. Ask your local council member, mayor, congressman, etc., why Americans vote on Tuesday on camera and upload the video online.

Romney, for his part, has had a complex, love-and-hate relationship with online videos.

When an online video showing his previous support for abortion and gay rights surfaced on YouTube, he responded on YouTube, a deft move. But that didn’t stop YouTubers from uploading more anti-Romney videos. Type “Romney” and “abortion” on YouTube, and the first two of 100 videos that pop up — one is called the “Mitt Romney Abortion Flip Flop Quiz” — highlight his changing positions on abortion. Sure, he’s got more videos on his YouTube channel — 357 and counting — than Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain and Paul combined. But while all three are scheduled to participate in the the CNN/YouTube debate in November, Romney has yet to accept the invitation. He’s criticized the format and has taken special offense to a YouTuber, dressed as a snowman, asking a question about global warming.

And while the 129 submitted contest videos play on the common campaign themes of “strength,” “innovation” and “experience,” the campaign couldn’t stop users from mocking its contest and creating their own anti-Romney videos — right on Jumpcut. A popular one is a re-telling of a story that Romney told his eldest son, Tagg. The young Tagg, Romney has said, was thinking of becoming a Democrat. But when father told son that Democrats want gay marriage, Tagg said, “No Way!” The video, created by Slate’s Bruce Reed, is titled “Way!”

As it happens, Reed’s video has been viewed nearly 64,000 times on Jumpcut. Whitaker’s winning video has clocked in some 17,501 viewsmore [emphases ours]

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Within weeks of Giuliani changing up his campaign strategy and putting more on New Hampshire, he has closed the gap on Romney in that state. Polls are now showing the two in a statistical dead heat. In fact, there are less than 6 points of separation between Romney, Giuliani, and Mccain,” writes the estimable Tom Cavazos, apparently a friend of Russ Hargraves, Laura Elizabeth Morales, and Travis Weissler, in a Right Up Front web log post.

Translation: This race is still wide open. The sudden shift in the polls is a very bad sign for Mitt Romney, who needs to win both Iowa and New Hampshire to have a shot at the nomination. Romney has raised and spent millions on these two states and has spent the vast majority of his time campaigning in those states. The fact that a couple of weeks of campaigning by Giuliani and a strong debate performance by Mccain could erode that much support from Romney spells disaster for his campaign. Many analysts have suggested that Governor Romney’s support is very weak and largely driven by the media. This sudden and dramatic shift in the polls suggests that this might just be the case.

Governor Romney better get to work fast because this state is a must win for his campaign. The fact that his massive resources have failed to build him any kind of solid support does not speak wonders for his chances.

Speaking of New Hampshire, has anyone seen Mccain’s new ads? Not bad … more [emphasis ours]

We concur. Please see:

death by internal memo: how the Romneys assuage themselves for their massive and accumulating losses

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Republican Mitt Romney appears poised to dump significantly more of his own fortune into his campaign effort — a possible sign that he had trouble raising the money from donors this quarter. At a speech in California Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that Romney — who once said donating to his presidential campaign would be a nightmare — declared that he had “contributed significantly to the campaign” and added ‘I presume I will again,'” reports the estimable Matthew Mosk in a post titled First the Fundraising Reports, Then the Campaign Fallout, featured in WaPo’s The Trail. [Emphasis ours]

Through June, the former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist had contributed $9 million to his campaign, nearly a quarter of his overall contributions.

“I don’t like the fact that money has such an impact on politics, but this to me is a reason I’m investing at least as much as everybody else — probably a little more,” Romney said, according to the AP reportmore

See:

Romney is prepared to buy the White House

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Romney strategist Alex Gage wrote in a Thursday memo that it is likely Romney will hover around 10 percent in national polls and gradually gain ground toward the end of the year,” reports the estimable Steve Holland in a Reuters release titled Romney seeks to assure supporters over campaign

“But we should not expect him to be competitive in national polls with better-known candidates like Giuliani, Thompson or McCain until after Iowa and New Hampshire,” he wrote.

Romney has pursued an “early state strategy,” focusing on Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and hoping to do well in those states to build momentum for February 5, when some 20 states are to hold their primaries, including California and New York.

But Gage cautioned: “By no means do we expect to win both Iowa and New Hampshire — no Republican in the modern era ever has.”

Here is a further problem for the Romneys. Iowa may be irrelevant what with the compressed primary schedule—2008 is not 2004, or so suggests the all-seeing eye in an eyeon2008.com post titled Calendar implications; Iowa less important?—now, back to Steve Holland and his Reuters release titled Romney seeks to assure supporters over campaign

A Republican strategist not attached to a presidential campaign said the Romney campaign was trying to lower expectations about Iowa and New Hampshire.

“Politics is about setting expectations, and this is Romney’s attempt to lower the bar in these two states where he’s done exceptionally well since the spring,” the strategist said.

Gage used as an example the case of Sen. John Kerry, the Democrat who was at about 9 percent in the polls at this point ahead of the 2004 campaign leapt to 49 percent in the weeks after winning the Iowa caucuses. He won the Democratic nomination but lost to President George W. Bush.

Romney has been running as a Washington outsider, criticizing his own Republicans for failing to stop government spending and providing better security for U.S. borders from illegal immigration … more

This is what passes for wailing and the gnashing of teeth at Team Romney’s posh waterfront Pavilion of Dejection and Despair. See:

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“[Romney] takes credit for lowering premiums by as much as 50%, yet this is certainly not a statewide average. Massachusetts still has the highest per-capita health spending in the nation. The plans are deemed so unaffordable that 20% of uninsured people will not be forced to comply. Expected premiums are set as high as 8% of a person’s income — and that’s before co-pays and deductibles. And what, may I ask, is a government mandate to purchase something or pay a fine if not a tax?”—argues Sally C. Pipes, President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute, San Francisco … more

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

Today, our country faces an inflection point where our course must change if we are to meet unprecedented challenges here at home and abroad,” writes Romney himself (presumably) in a redstate.com post titled Change Begins With Us

An inflection point?—say what!?

An inflection point is a point on a curve at which the sign of the curvature (i.e., the concavity) changes. Inflection points may be stationary points, but are not relative maxima or relative minima. For example, for the curve y==x^3 plotted above, the point x==0 is an inflection pointmore

We are at “a point on a curve at which the sign of the curvature changes?”—huh?—is this an inspiring metaphor in some niche community? Who does Romney presume is his audience?

As we have always done, the American people will rise to the occasion. But at this critical time, Washington is failing us.

Romney: We will rise. But Washington is failing us. (Wait. Does this mean that we won’t rise after all?) Romney warms to his theme by means of a distinction: by Washington he means the parties, Democrats and Republicans.

The blame for Washington’s failures lies not just with the Democrats but with Republicans as well. We have to put our own house in order. We can no longer be a party of big spenders with ethical standards more fitting of a Jay Leno punch line. We can no longer pretend our borders are secure. When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses. It’s time for change in Washington and change begins with us.

Romney: Republicans share the blame for Washington’s failures. Our house is out of order. We spend too much. Our ethical standards are low. We pretend that our borders are secure. Hence: we are behaving like Democrats. Conclusion: we must change, and change begins with us—and by us Romney means Republicans—only Romney means some but not all Republicans, because Romney qualifies the term Republican with the prepositional phrase for change.

Romney enlarges on his distinction of Republicans as opposed to Republicans for Change by using it to introduce the topics of the next 7 paragraphs. The topics are:

  • limited government
  • fiscal responsibility
  • strength
  • ethical standards
  • civility and respect
  • tackling big problems, which for Romney is a way of introducing the War on Terror, which Romney articulates as checking the “spread of radical, violent Jihadism.”
  • protecting families from obscenity, pornography, child predators etc.

The list resembles a series of power-point slides. This is argument by catalogue or bullet points. And: These are all Republican core issues. Here is the problem: the list of issues Romney develops here are not the issues that Romney is running on, at least not on the stump, and at least not according to Mary Jacoby of WSJ.com in a release titled Romney Tries to Show Voters He ‘Gets It,’ a release we commented on earlier.

Jacoby describes Romney as attempting to argue for center-left issues, e.g. healthcare, education, and economic security, in the idiom of the center-right. Hence Romney “can sound at times part Rush Limbaugh, part Bill Clinton, braiding red-meat conservative lines with feel-your-pain prescriptions for health care and retirement security“—translation: Romney “can sound” incoherent.

Romney digresses from his values list to propose “easy to engage” content “filters” on computers to protect our children from the “culture that surrounds them,” a culture that happens to be our culture, before Romney returns again to Republicans for Change on the concluding topics of faith and patriotism. (Note to Romney: we like, nay, we love our culture; we are, after all, cultural conservatives. What e.g. porn sites purvey is not culture, Mr. Romney.)

American patriotism is why I am convinced this nation will always prevail as the greatest hope of the earth. America faces unprecedented challenges, a virtual perfect storm buffeting the pillars of our strength. The course of our history will change. For America to remain the great nation it has always been, it will look to Republicans for leadership.

A “perfect storm” “buffets” our “pillars”? What an interesting image. The “course of history” will change, like a ship. Question: What happened to Washington?—the Washington that was failing us? What happened to our point of inflection—we will be able to halt or arrest the turn of the curve? Is this what Romney means by course changing?

If we read Romney’s composition correctly—and we are not by any means confident that we are—Republicans for Change, with whom the reader is invited to identify, stand as the antithesis to Republicans who behave like Democrats, bogus Republicans who e.g. spend too much, pretend as if our borders are secure. In other words, for Romney the crisis is effectively one of blurred distinctions; we cannot tell the Republicans from the Democrats; one behaves like the other. Hence Romney addresses in Perelman’s terms an elite as opposed to a general or universal audience—in this case, an imagined vanguard of Republicans who are genuine as opposed to nominal Republicans, a dissociation of the term Republican into the real and the apparent.

The argument is functionally identical to a rationale or an alibi. Many Republicans may oppose us, the Romney supporter is invited to rationalize: but real Republicans support us. Hence: raw numbers, or the actual non-performance of the ailing Romney campaign, fails to tell the real story. To dissociate the real from the apparent is often the instrument of the scold as it so easily issues into a double bind, e.g. “if you really loved me … “—blaming and scolding is emerging as Romney’s preferred idiom, see:

Romney’s language of blame indicates a personality that believes itself powerless and uncared for

Also: Continetti of the Weekly Standard demonstrates how the Romney message lacks moral courage in that it affects to criticize the GOP on grounds that any Republican or conservative would heartily agree with. Hence, what masquerades as a critique is in affect an empty, epideictic display.

Romney the scold of the GOP (ii); Continetti: Romney hates fake people

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“LONG BEACH, Calif. –Republican Mitt Romney, who once said donating to his presidential campaign would be a nightmare, told an audience Wednesday that the millions he is pouring into the race keep him free of special interests,” writes the estimable Glen Johnson for the associated press in a release titled Romney says he may donate more of own money to his campaign

The former Massachusetts governor made the pronouncement amid a five-day California swing that includes 11 fundraisers, and just before a lobbying group’s fundraiser for him in Washington. Romney also said he would likely contribute more to his campaign before the fundraising quarter ends Monday, although he declined to say how much.

To date, the venture capitalist has contributed $9 million to his campaign, nearly a quarter of his overall contributions.

“I don’t like the fact that money has such an impact on politics, but this to me is a reason I’m investing at least as much as everybody else — probably a little more,” Romney told about 200 people in an airport hangar.

“I’m not beholden to any particular group for getting me into this race or for getting me elected. My family, that’s the only one I’m really beholden to, they’re the ones who let their inheritance slip away, dollar by dollar”more [emphasis ours]

But this is the problem. Romney is “beholden to none” but Romney. Romney has no base, no movement, no supporters who invest their substance in his success—he has no one that he owes, no one that he trusts, no source of sounder counsel. Combine that with Romney’s famous proclivity for reversing himself on core issues, and what you have is a loose cannon on a wet and greasy deck in a storm-tossed sea.

Apparently the troubled candidate’s attempts to raise money are failing. We’re shocked.

As we wrote before here:

As we wrote before here: Every question about every task that awaits the Romney campaign reduces to how much of Romney’s own money—the patrimony of his beloved sons—is Romney willing to squander? This whole farce could end tomorrow—or even tonight—this very moment it could all disappear as if it were a dream—were Romney to somehow summon up the courage within himself to refuse to sign another check and demand that his friends and followers support him with more than polite nods and nervous smiles.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.





Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.