Posts Tagged ‘realclearpolitics’

“It would have been better for the nation if Mitt Romney had said he just wanted to spend more time with his family,” write the editors of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an article titled A graceless Mitt Romney shows the nation how not to bow out of a race, reproduced in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Instead, the former Massachusetts governor, in dropping his bid for the Republican presidential nomination Thursday, insulted the patriotism of most of the American electorate – and its intelligence as well.

In his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, Romney said he was stepping aside because, ”I simply cannot let my campaign be part of aiding a surrender to terror.”

Both of the candidates for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, Romney said, ”have made their intentions clear regarding Iraq and the war on terror: They would retreat, declare defeat.” For him to continue campaigning, he said, would ”forestall the launch of a national campaign, and frankly, I’d make it easier for Sen. Clinton or Obama to win.”

Even by today’s debased standards of political discourse, this borders on slander. Most Americans in both political parties have rejected President George W. Bush’s attempt to conflate the war in Iraq with the war on terrorism. Romney is bright enough to know the connection is dubious, but his comments suggest he’s craven enough to use it to curry favor with the party’s extreme right – just in case he wants to try again in 2012.

Yet it is exactly this sort of transparent, say-anything political opportunism that characterized and, ultimately, torpedoed Romney’s campaign. Time and again, he espoused positions that conflicted with views he had expressed previously – on abortion, gay rights, stem cell research, immigration and health-care reform. Those flip-flops, more than his Mormon faith, caused evangelical Christians in the GOP to be wary of him […]

[…] Romney tried Thursday to compare his 2008 campaign with that of former California Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1976. Reagan, although narrowly trailing President Gerald R. Ford in the delegate count, took his battle for the nomination to the August convention in Kansas City. But those were different times, when primaries and state party conventions lasted well into the summer. Reagan didn’t have to wage an expensive six-month campaign to stay in the race, as Romney would.

Reagan did emerge, however, as the party’s heir apparent, a slot Romney clearly covets. His withdrawal from this race gives him four years to polish his conservative credentials for the next one – or change them if that’s more expedient […]

John Ellis in a RealClearPolitics article titled The Romney Campaign’s 5 Big Mistakes comments as well on Romney’s invocation of Reagan:

[…] Having mismanaged their candidate to political defeat, the Romney team added insult to injury by spinning his departure as reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s defeat in 1976. This is preposterous. Reagan electrified the conservative movement in 1964 with his televised address on behalf of Barry Goldwater. Reagan came within one endorsement — Strom Thurmond’s — of wresting away the Republican nomination from Richard Nixon in 1968. And when he arrived in Kansas City in the summer of 1976, he had carried any number of critical states by majority votes (and in some cases, by wide margins) in Republican primary elections. Reagan left the stage as a force because he was a force. Romney leaves the stage having carried Michigan and Massachusetts and a number of caucus states. And he leaves having given it his very best effort. But he does not leave as a force, because he is not yet a significant force in the Republican Party […]

The emphases are ours, all ours.

The editorialists of The Kansas City Star concur with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an editorial titled Romney’s withdrawal clears way for GOP’s best candidate

[…] In ceding the Republican nomination to John McCain on Thursday, Mitt Romney did not blame his own inept campaign.

He did not blame inconsistencies between his campaign rhetoric and his record as governor of Massachusetts.

He did not blame intraparty religious squabbles that another candidate, Mike Huckabee, cynically encouraged.

No, Romney chose to blame his withdrawal on . . . the Democrats!

As Romney told it, Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama would “surrender” to our enemies abroad.

By prolonging the Republican nomination battle, Romney said, he would dangerously hobble McCain’s ability to attack the Democrats. “And in this time of war,” Romney said, “I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”

That’s quite a charge, reminiscent of Vice President Dick Cheney’s worst rhetorical excesses. In the last presidential campaign, for example, Cheney was widely mocked for his claim that voting for Democrats would raise the danger of another big terrorist attack on the United States.

A question for Romney: Whatever happened to simply congratulating the rival who beat you in a hard-fought primary battle?

Whether they count themselves as Democrats, Republicans or independents, many voters have tired of the bitter political partisanship they see in our national government.

So Romney’s statement Thursday provided further evidence of the tin ear that hurt his candidacy […]

The reviews are in. Romney’s final tirade tanked. Romney departed us the same way he greeted us, disastrously.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

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“WASHINGTON — Amid the mayhem on world financial markets, it is becoming clear that capitalism’s most dangerous enemies are capitalists,” writes Robert Samuelson in a realclearpolitcs.com article titled Wall Street Elite Put Capitalism at Risk

No one can have watched the “subprime mortgage” debacle without noticing the absurd contrast between the magnitude of the failure and the lavish rewards heaped on those who presided over it. At Merrill Lynch and Citigroup, large losses on subprime securities cost CEOs their jobs — and they left with multimillion-dollar pay packages. Stanley O’Neal, the ex-head of Merrill, received an estimated $161 million.

Everyday Americans will conclude (rightly) that this brand of capitalism is rigged in favor of the privileged few. It will be said in their defense that these packages reflected years of service, often highly successful. So? It’s not as if these CEOs weren’t compensated in all those years. If you leave your company in shambles — with losses to be absorbed by lower-level employees, some of whom will be fired, and shareholders — do you deserve a gold-plated sendoff? Still, the more serious problem transcends the high pay itself and goes to the wider consequences for the economy […]

[…] By “Wall Street,” I mean all the commercial banks, investment banks, mutual funds, hedge funds and the like that comprise the financial sector — but particularly investment banks. Pay is eye-popping. In 2007, Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, received compensation estimated at $68 million. But pay is also heavily skewed toward annual “bonuses” based on the profits that traders and bankers generate. I asked Johnson Associates, a compensation consulting firm, for typical Wall Street pay packages. The results describe “managing directors” based in New York with 10 or 15 years experience. Most would be in their 40s.

Here are estimates for 2007:

Investment banker: $2.1 million, consisting of $275,000 in base pay plus $1.2 million in cash bonus and $625,000 in long-term bonus. (An investment banker helps firms raise capital by selling new stocks and bonds and also advises on mergers and acquisitions.)

Bond trader: $1.525 million, with $240,000 in base pay, $975,000 in cash bonus and $310,000 in long-term bonus.

Hedge-fund manager: $1.85 million, split between a salary of $265,000 and $1.585 million bonus […]

[…] But Wall Street also frequently misallocates capital and credit. The “tech bubble” of the late 1990s was one episode. Now we have subprime mortgages. Why? Well, the herd mentality of financial crazes has a long history. But compensation practices skewed so heavily toward bonuses based on annual profits make matters worse.

“People self-select for careers. On Wall Street, they self-select for the money,” says pay consultant Alan Johnson. “Wall Street is a sales business — they sell bonds, securities, transactions, ideas. … They’re not paid to be long-term, philosophical, reflective.” The pressure is to do the next merger, sell more stocks and bonds, do more trading — whatever boosts current profits and bonuses, the long-term consequences be damned […]

[…] But if the subprime failure turns out to be a preamble to a larger financial breakdown, flowing from the creation of new securities that offered short-term trading possibilities but whose long-run risks were underestimated, then the mood could turn uglier. Indeed, many Americans may conclude that capitalism has run amok […]

Precisely.

What does this have to do with Romney? Everything. Quite simply, everything. As we wrote before, Romney’s cohort of mangers and specialists that began their careers in the financial services industry in the 70s have come of age; they are taking their places in our highest echelons.

Permit us to quote from an earlier contribution:

“That’s the good news for America [i.e. the Democrats backing away from a defacto isolationism]. The bad news for the GOP is that once Iraq goes from being the top headline, the economy is the next issue. And, indeed, with casualties falling, Americans are focusing on the economy,” writes eye in an eyeon08.com post titled economy most important issue?

Yes. About the economy:

“The two appointments [to the federal reserve] come after six tortured months in the credit markets that have included sub-prime debacles, a Congressional crackdown on taxes in the private equity industry, and increasing involvement of the Fed in bailouts,” writes Heidi Moore in a Financial News Online-US article titled Wall Street experts invade Washington

The two appointments Moore refers to are:

Stephen Friedman, former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, currently co-chairman of Stone Point Capital

-and-

John A. Canning Jr., co-founder of Madison Dearborn Partners

Friedman and Canning will “take the respective helms of the two most powerful branches of the 12 banks of the Federal Reserve.” You may not know these two gentlemen. But Romney knows them. And they know Romney. Back to Moore:

… The Federal Reserve under chairman Ben Bernanke has become more involved in Wall Street bailouts and cash infusions amid the credit crunch. The Fed last week injected $41bn (€29.9bn) in the markets to guarantee liquidity, and Bernanke also supports the creation of the $80bn master liquidity enhancement conduit that will sop up assets from troubled structured investment vehicles …

Translation: using taxpayer money—public funds—to recoup private losses in the private equity sector. Back to Moore:

… In addition, some prominent former Wall Streeters hold unprecedented influence in Washington. Hank Paulson, the Treasury Secretary and former Goldman Sachs chief, has spearheaded initiatives to revamp US laws that allegedly hinder competitiveness …

Translation: initiatives to emancipate capital flows from their bondage to local procedures for adjudicating among rival claims—i.e. states, nations, communities—more privatizing gains; more socializing the costs and the losses. Back to Moore:

… The crop of current presidential candidates includes Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, who heads the Senate banking committee, as well as Bain Capital founder Mitt Romney. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also been rumored as a candidate …

We have harped on this string before—see: Romney and private equity: the new ruling class. As much as we wish it were so, Romney is not an aberration. He and his peers represent the most advanced sector of a new class of professionals—the product of the revolution in financial services that began in the late 70s, early 80s—that have come of age and are now taking their places in senior executive positions. Most of them are comfortable working behind the scenes—not Romney.

The equity sector is capital at the limit of its development—it is capital negating itself as capital, as it is capital without owners in any conventional sense—it is capital in the form of vast pools of spare money or other instruments managed by technical adepti and professional elites. (Drucker famously refers to capital at this level of development as “pension fund socialism.”)

The equity sector gives us the notion of the “business audit”—imagine a pension fund that has bought into a retail chain. Say also that the chain is too big an investment for the pension fund to allow to fail. So: on the basis of a business audity, the fund—the effective “owner” of the retail chain—supplies the technical and managerial expertise to “turn-around” the retail operation. Does this sound familiar? If you’re a Romney observer, it should. It should sound like Romney’s Bain Capital. It should also sound, sadly, like what Romney wants to do with our government (see his interview with Carney that we discussed here).

The equity sector elites are already plundering our treasury to pay for their losses—but how can politicians refuse their demand for relief?—so much of the equity sector is composed of pensions, mortgages, savings instruments, public and private debt, in other words, the moneys, properties, and pensions of the middle classes and the elderly—equity sector money is, in a sense, public money already, only it is public money that disproportionately benefits the class that disposes of it—hence: Romney’s millions.

Imagine a professional class with direct access to our treasury. Imagine a professional class that has the power to tax you—this is the so-called private equity sector. (Not since the central-storage economies of absolute antiquity has economic and political power been this unified or concentrated.) Imagine what this new defacto ruling class will do once of their own sits upon the US presidential dais? This would be corruption on a scale that eye hath not seen, nor hath ear heard.

We have harped on these sad strings for weeks. Our point: Romney, the equity sector, the global crash, the collapse of the GOP and its institutions—these are all related. No, we don’t mean to suggest that they are related in some sort of grand conspiracy; not in the least. Rather: we would argue that they are all the surface irritations of larger, and necessary, historical developments.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

[…] “So, what is Romney’s angle on the nomination?”—asks the estimable Jay Cost in a RealClearPolitics article titled Can Mitt Catch On?

He heads to Nevada and wins that state’s uncontested caucus. This keeps him viable until Florida, regardless of what happens in South Carolina. He then gives Florida everything he’s got.

Will it work? I don’t know. He has another potential problem.

Why is it that most primary candidates refuse to run sustained, intense negative campaigns? The answer is that everybody is basically on the same side. An attacking candidate has to be careful about his opponent’s core supporters. He runs the risk of alienating them – and they might ultimately refuse to support him after their guy drops out of the race. Romney might find himself in that situation. His attacks on McCain and Huckabee have been as sustained and intense as any this cycle. And there is evidence that this has damaged him with the Mac and Huck factions.

The Pew poll found that Romney’s net favorable rating among these voters is not very strong: just +7% among McCain voters, and a whopping -9% among Huckabee voters. Of course, the sample sizes informing these statistics are small – but they are large enough to validate this modest conclusion: Romney is relatively weak among Huckabee and McCain supporters. For comparative purposes: McCain is +30% among Huckabee supporters; Huckabee is +15% among McCain supporters; Giuliani is an eye-popping +69% among McCain supporters, and +33% among Huckabee supporters. [A problem Romney will confront if he wins the GOP nomination: he has a net -12% favorable rating among the general electorate. I’d wager this is also a consequence of the negative tenor of his campaign in recent months.]

This could create problems for Romney in Florida, depending on how things turn out in South Carolina. Following Pew, it does not seem that Romney is the second choice of a plurality of Huckabee voters or McCain voters. The situation in Florida might be different than what Pew finds on the national level, but I doubt it is significantly so. My sense is that if Floridians bolt Huckabee after he loses South Carolina – a plurality will go to McCain, not Romney. Similarly, if they bolt McCain – a plurality will go to Giuliani, not Romney. Generally, Pew and other pollsters have found Romney in third or fourth place when it comes to second choices. Pew also finds that 20% of Republicans will never vote for Romney, making him more “unacceptable” than McCain or Giuliani.

In light of this, I think that what Romney needs is a nominal Huckabee (or Thompson) victory in South Carolina. It would keep the field as open as possible. If the Florida electorate is split four or five ways, Romney might be able to pull out a victory based on his current coalition – thus giving him an opportunity to expand it in advance of Super Tuesday […]

We have harped on the finely-tuned string of Romney’s negativity and negative attacks for months. We had assumed—incorrectly, if Cost is correct—that the costs for Romney would be disastrous but short term in character.

Cost has persuaded us otherwise.

Cost’s conclusions assume that the GOP remains coherent and effective as an organization. We assume the opposite: the GOP base and institutions will collapse and what remains of the GOP will decide for Romney—this is our prediction. And: evidence suggests that Team Romney assumes the same outcome. Otherwise they would even now be reaching out to Sen. McCain and Gov. Huckabee constituencies—only they aren’t—precisely the opposite is the case—the Romneys and their flaks and flatterers are as hostile and condescending as they ever were toward their rivals and their followers. Instead, as Cost describes, the political primitives of the Romney tribe—still smarting from the beatings they took in Iowa and New Hampshire—now attempt to bypass the detached McCain-Huckabee constituencies altogether wherever they discover them in sufficient concentrations to merit concern, as in South Carolina. The Romney Tribe predict that the detached rebels will be powerless in a dispersed and disorganized GOP, which is probably true. This may also explain Romney’s sudden rhetorical turn toward a naive and intuitive “third way” bipartisanship—he now reaches out to moderates and independents and build his own coalition—see:

That didn’t take long!—Romney drops all pretense of any commitment to conservative values or principles—now argues that “it‘s time for Washington — Republican and Democrat — to have a leader who will fight to make sure we resolve the issues rather than continuously look for partisan opportunity for score-settling” etc.

Here is the problem for Romney: he is not a coalition builder. Coalitions organize themselves around movement politicians. If Iowa, New Hampshire, and even Michigan have taught us anything at all it is that Romney is not a movement politician.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“Mitt Romney, a dominant favorite in New Hampshire just weeks ago, said Sunday that a “close second” to Arizona Sen. John McCain would be a significant feat on Tuesday,” write Jonathan Martin and Jim VandeHei in a politico.com feast-for-the-mind titled Romney dials down expectations hard, which is an interesting use of the of the word “dial”

The almost frantic downsizing of expectations for the former Massachusetts governor came as the candidate and his staff are publicly and privately preparing to explain away what would be a disheartening loss and shift to a last-ditch strategy predicated on his ability to outlast and outspend his rivals, according to sources inside the campaign.

Last ditch strategy? Precisely the opposite is the case. To outlast and outspend his rivals has always been Romney’s strategy, his only practical strategy.

Romney’s early-state von Schlieffen plan was a ruse, a subterfuge to suggest the cover of a legitimate primary campaign with legimate primary campaign objectives. And this expectations bull roar emitted by the Romneys is but a ruse within a ruse.

Back to Martin and VandeHei:

“This is a must-win state for him,” Romney said of McCain, in a Politico interview Sunday. “If he doesn’t win here, I don’t know where he is going to win. So for me it’s can I catch John McCain — can I keep him from getting this?”

We predicted Romney would say this. What is eerie is that we predicted that Romney would say precisely this. Here is what we predicted Romney would say on 01.01:

  • NH is Sen. McCain’s to lose,
  • Team Romney assumed from the beginning of time that Sen. McCain would surpass them in NH by a million points,
  • Even a close number 2 for the Romneys behind Sen. McCain finish would be a disaster for Sen. McCain’s campaign and a breakthrough for Team Romney

More evidence of Romney’s inexperience and naivete—more evidence of his amateur-hour campaigning. In a realclearpolitics post titled Mitt’s Ham-Handed Campaign, Jay Cost opines:

[…] This is par for the course for the Romney campaign, in my estimation. His candidacy has been the most transparently strategic this cycle. McCain is up? Go after McCain. McCain is down? Leave McCain alone. Thompson enters the race and seems a threat? Take a cheap shot about Law and Order. Thompson fades? Ignore him. Rudy is up? Go after Rudy. Huckabee is up? Go after Huck. You need to win a Republican primary? Make yourself the most socially conservative candidate in the race. And on and on and on.

If somebody asked me which candidate on the Republican side has won just a single election (in a year that his party did very well nationwide) — I would answer Mitt Romney, even knowing nothing about anybody’s biography. This kind of transparency is, to me, a sign of political inexperience. He’s only won one election, and it shows […]

Back to Martin and VandeHei:

Left unsaid was that Romney has led in state polls for much of the race, and McCain only caught him recently.

The Romney campaign has the feel of one bracing for a possible loss, including the tell-tale emergence of behind-the-scenes clashes. Several Romney advisers described internal disputes over strategic missteps leading up to Iowa — with some contending Romney should have focused earlier on his ability as a Washington outsider and businessman to change the political process and fix Washington’s big problems […]

Romney’s solution? Focus on both strategies. What got sacrificed? Any chance at a coherent message:

Luo: “Ever since Mr. Romney began his presidential bid, his campaign has oscillated between two distinct, some would say contradictory, themes—Mr. Romney as a conservative standard-bearer and him as a pragmatic problem-solving businessman”

Back to Martin and VandeHei:

[…] Romney said tension inside his campaign over strategic decisions has not been a big deal. He blamed reporters — not his advisers — for forcing him to focus intensely on his conservative views instead of the message of change he is carrying to every event in New Hampshire.

“I get asked a lot about my conservative credentials, largely by members of the media,” he said in the interview. “I go on TV and it’s like: ‘Tell me about your church, tell me where you stand on abortion.’

“There is no question the focus of my campaign has been on changing Washington” […]

Romney blamed reporters? Does the press corps work for Romney now? Is the press corps responsible for promulgating Romney’s message, or do they pursue other goals? Is it wise for the hapless candidate to cast himself as at the mercy of bully reporters?—what sort of “leader” allows others to control his message?

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

“AP’s Glen Johnson and Liz Sidoti have news of the first negative ad to air in the GOP race,” writes Jonathan Martin of the Politico in a post titled Romney to hit Huck on immigration in Iowa

Who: Mitt on Huck
What: Immigration
When: Starting tomorrow
Where: Iowa

Romney spokesman Kevin Madden tells me that the spot “clarifies the distinct differences between Governor Romney and Mike Huckabee on the issue of immigration.”

UPDATE: I’ve gotten my hands on the ad itself, “The Record.”

Note the gentle lead-in. Romney’s camp plainly recognizes the danger of going negative in Iowa, so they go to considerable length to frame the attack with what is both a nod of respect to Huckabee and a sly effort at dulling the differences between the two on cultural issues.

Then comes the knife, aimed squarely at Huck’s support for providing the children of illegal immigrants tuition breaks … etc.

Also:

Landscaper: Romney Never Insisted Employees Be Legal—as reported by Fox News. The landscaper who Mitt Romney fired earlier this week for continuing to employ illegal immigrants says the termination boils down to little more than politics.

And again:

“Romney doesn’t deserve “amnesty” for this recurring lapse in judgment,” writes Ruben Navarrette in a RealClearPolitics.com story titled Romney Makes It Hard to Trust Him

And for two reasons:

First, there is the hypocrisy. Millions of Americans benefit from the sweat of illegal immigrants – directly or indirectly – but Romney is the one trying to score political points off these people. As if illegal immigrants don’t do enough, they are now fodder to help put Mitt Romney in the Oval Office.

And second, there is the issue of authenticity. Romney may have tripped up in his effort to fool Republican voters into believing that he’s a real conservative – on abortion, gun control, gay rights and now on illegal immigration – and that he takes to heart the concerns of conservative voters.

Romney desperately needs to sell that line, especially in conservative states such as Iowa where Republican voters at town halls demand to know how candidates will stop illegal immigration. And if Iowans are like many other Americans, after they’ve said their peace, they retreat to their homes to watch cable television demagogues and wring their hands over the “invasion” while someone else does the yardwork, or the housework, or the child care, or the cooking … etc., etc.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.