Politics

Romney Defends ‘Romneycare,’ Outlines Differences from Obama’s Plan

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May 12, 2011, 11:09 a.m.

GOP cmtes “and con­ser­vat­ive groups have spent” $100K or more in 77 dif­fer­ent House races com­pared to 43 races where Dems spent that amount, ac­cord­ing to Wash­ing­ton Post ana­lys­is. “The pat­tern is sim­il­ar in the Sen­ate” where GOP­ers have spent $1M or more in 12 races while Dems have spent that amount in only 6.

The ad­vant­age has al­lowed GOP­ers to “take to the air­waves soon­er in an at­tempt to define” their op­pon­ents. Dems, mean­while, are spend­ing “in lib­er­al strong­holds” like WA, CA and DE, leav­ing “less cash to fund can­did­ates fa­cing strong” GOP chal­lengers in swing states.

“With out­side groups go­ing on the air” for many GOP­ers, the NR­SC “has had more flex­ib­il­ity in choos­ing which races to fund early.”

NR­SC spokes­per­son Bri­an Walsh: “The land­scape has al­lowed us to use our money for more of­fens­ive pur­poses. The Demo­crats have had to cut a bunch of their can­did­ates loose” (Eggen/Farnam, Wash­ing­ton Post, 10/9).

“Fiv­eThirtyEight’s” Sil­ver writes: “Our mod­el now es­tim­ates that” GOP­ers have a 72% “chance of tak­ing over the House, up from” 67% last week. “Moreover, they have nearly even odds of a achiev­ing a net gain of 50 seats; their av­er­age gain in a typ­ic­al sim­u­la­tion run was between 47 and 48 seats.” GOP “gains this week are mostly the res­ult of factors at the loc­al level; the na­tion­al en­vir­on­ment is roughly stable” (New York Times, 10/8).

What’s Up, Gov?

GOP­ers “are well-po­si­tioned to pick up a sub­stan­tial num­ber” of GOV seats “with po­ten­tially far-reach­ing ef­fects on is­sues like the new health care law,” re­dis­trict­ing and pres­id­en­tial polit­ics. GOP­ers have “the up­per hand in many of” the 37 races up for grabs, “in­clud­ing those in cru­cial polit­ic­al battle­grounds” — GOP can­did­ates “have pulled away from their op­pon­ents” in IA, MI and PA.

The GOP “is also in­creas­ing its in­vest­ment” in Dem-lean­ing states like IL, MI and OR.

“Much of the fo­cus has been on” GOP “ef­forts to win con­trol of Con­gress, but a wave of” GOP GOV vic­tor­ies “could have just as sig­ni­fic­ant, and po­ten­tially longer last­ing, im­plic­a­tions.”

Dems “are bra­cing for deep losses. But party of­fi­cials are already point­ing to races in sev­er­al states, par­tic­u­larly” CA, FL and TX where Dem GOV nom­in­ees “have run stronger than can­did­ates for the House or the Sen­ate, a sign, they say, that the party has not en­tirely col­lapsed” (Zeleny/Dav­ey, New York Times, 10/10).

Ra Ra Ooh La La

Though many GOP can­did­ates “haven’t even read the ‘Pledge to Amer­ica’” and Dem can­did­ates “aren’t really both­er­ing to at­tack it” — the doc­u­ment has be­come a fo­cal point for Pres. Obama and House Min. Lead­er John Boehner (R-OH), in “an al­most daily de­bate” that could be “a pre­view of Wash­ing­ton in 2011.”

Boe­her, 10/9 in OH: “The Pledge to Amer­ica is a break not only from the dir­ec­tion in which Pres­id­ent Obama is headed but also a break from the dir­ec­tion Re­pub­lic­ans were headed when we last had the op­por­tun­ity to gov­ern.”

Obama, 10/8 in Chica­go: “The Pledge to Amer­ica, it’s the same stuff they’ve been ped­dling for years. They’re try­ing to hood­wink you once again.”

But “des­pite both men’s fo­cus on the pledge, it’s not clear that either is win­ning the ar­gu­ment” — 2/3 of Amer­ic­ans say they’ve nev­er heard of it (Ba­con, Wash­ing­ton Post, 10/9).

Even as Boehner heads to south FL 10/11 to cam­paign for him, one GOP can­did­ate went so far as to dis­miss the Pledge en­tirely. FL-22 nom­in­ee Al­len West (R) “signaled that he’s not com­pletely ready to em­brace the GOP es­tab­lish­ment” and “dis­missed” the Pledge “as more ‘rah rah’ and ‘boil­er­plate’ from Wash­ing­ton” GOP­ers.

West “said the ‘Pledge to Amer­ica,’ cham­pioned by Boehner, de­serves a grade in the ‘D’ range. He said it was miss­ing key policy plans on im­mig­ra­tion, ear­marks and term lim­its. The sec­tion on na­tion­al se­cur­ity was ‘same old stuff … mis­sile de­fense, rah, rah, rah.’

West: “It’s very im­port­ant that in the first 90 to 120 days that the Re­pub­lic­an Party very quickly has to earn the trust of the Amer­ic­an people once again. And I don’t think that the Pledge to Amer­ica went very far in gain­ing that trust. It’s what we call in the mil­it­ary, boil­er­plate. … If John Boehner is speak­er, I’m go­ing to hold his feet to the fire. And I think that’s im­port­ant” (Sher­man, Politico, 10/11).

Tea Tar­get­ing

The Fed “is fa­cing a new source of an­ger: the Tea Party move­ment. “They have made the Fed a tar­get of their ire, link­ing it to their cri­ti­cisms of” the stim­u­lus and Wall Street Bail­outs.

SEN nom­in­ee/ex-Jon Hunts­man gen. coun­sel Mike Lee (R-UT) “has ac­cused the cent­ral bank of try­ing to ‘mon­et­ize the debt’ by print­ing money to buy gov­ern­ment bonds — a mo­tiv­a­tion that Fed of­fi­cials have hotly denied.” SEN nom­in­ee/Weld Co. DA Ken Buck (R-CO) “has called for ‘shin­ing a light on the Fed­er­al Re­serve,’ say­ing it is too cozy with private in­terests.” And SEN nom­in­ee/oph­thal­mo­lo­gist Rand Paul (R-KY) “has ar­gued that the Fed is de­valu­ing the dol­lar and caus­ing boom-bust cycles through its easy-money policies.”

“Cri­ti­cism of the Fed has been more of a sim­mer­ing un­der­cur­rent” this cycle “than a dom­in­ant theme, … but Fed of­fi­cials … have be­come in­creas­ingly at­tuned to the prob­ab­il­ity that their crit­ics will have a louder voice in the next Con­gress.”

Ex-House Maj. Lead­er Dick Armey (R) “blames the Fed for abet­ting the crisis by keep­ing in­terest rates too low for too long after the 2001 re­ces­sion.” And a few Tea Parti­ers, in­clud­ing Lee, “have come close to ur­ging a re­turn to the gold stand­ard.”

The “ire at the Fed may be broad but not very deep. … Even so, the an­ger has been strong enough to raise some con­cerns among” GOP­ers.

Ex-Rep. Vin Weber (R-MN): “The po­s­i­tions that have be­come al­most main­stream, at least on the right, used to be ex­treme po­s­i­tions. Only the John Birch So­ci­ety used to call for the audit­ing of the Fed­er­al Re­serve.”

Josh Barro wrote, for Na­tion­al Re­view in June: “There’s al­ways a prob­lem with un­ac­count­able gov­ern­ment agen­cies, but on the oth­er hand the Fed has had a free hand to do things that have been ne­ces­sary and un­pop­u­lar. If Con­gress had had the power to stop all the as­set pur­chases the Fed has done, we might have dropped in­to de­fla­tion the last couple of years” (Chan, New York Times, 10/10).

Tak­ing A Tea Test

“A re­cord num­ber of Tea Party act­iv­ists” gathered at the VA Tea Party Pat­ri­ots Con­ven­tion in Rich­mond 10/8. Speak­ers in­cluded VA Gov. Bob Mc­Don­nell (R) and ex-Sens. George Al­len (R-VA) and Rick San­tor­um (R-PA), leav­ing “some wor­ried that the es­tab­lish­ment was tak­ing over their grass-roots move­ment.”

Man­as­sas Tea Party chair Dan Arnold: “Some num­ber of elec­ted of­fi­cials make sense, but we don’t want to come off like this is the es­tab­lish­ment. Our job is to hold the es­tab­lish­ment ac­count­able.”

But “or­gan­izers of the two-day con­ven­tion — the largest such gath­er­ing in the na­tion — were quick to say they would not let elec­ted lead­ers give speeches, … but in­stead asked them to an­swer ques­tions as part of pan­els.”

Mc­Don­nell and VA LG Bill Bolling (R) “re­ceived stand­ing ova­tions and pro­longed ap­plause when they talked about” Va’s “leg­al fight” over health care. “The gov­ernor also fired up the crowd when he com­mit­ted to a pro­posed con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment giv­ing states au­thor­ity to re­peal fed­er­al le­gis­la­tion.”

Mc­Don­nell: “Now, I real­ize the tea party is a move­ment - it is not a polit­ic­al party per se. But I think it’s im­port­ant to en­gage people that were largely Re­pub­lic­an and frankly may have lost con­fid­ence be­cause they saw some Re­pub­lic­ans get elec­ted, not gov­ern as fisc­al con­ser­vat­ives, come up with more big-gov­ern­ment solu­tions or high­er taxes, more reg­u­la­tion, and they got dis­en­chanted” (Ku­mar, Wash­ing­ton Post, 10/8).

The right-lean­ing ed. board of the Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch “has sug­ges­ted it was hy­po­crit­ic­al of the con­ven­tion to have” ex-CNN host Lou Dobbs give a key­note 10/9 pm, giv­en a re­cent Na­tion art­icle quot­ing “il­leg­al im­mig­rants em­ployed by a com­pany Dobbs hired to help main­tain the grounds” at his FL home. But Con­ven­tion or­gan­izer Jam­ie Radtke said the group did not con­sider re­vok­ing the in­vit­a­tion.”

Radtke: “I have not had one per­son at the en­tire con­ven­tion come up to me and talk to me about the Na­tion. Frankly, they don’t read the Na­tion.”

Dobbs, re­spond­ing to the art­icle: “It would seem to me that what the Na­tion was ar­guing for, frankly, was ra­cial pro­fil­ing. And I would not par­ti­cip­ate in such a thing” (Hel­d­er­man, Wash­ing­ton Post, 10/9).

Over 2K people “signed up for the event.” Mem­bers from 30 loc­al and re­gion­al Tea Party groups par­ti­cip­ated (Sluss, Roan­oke Times, 10/9).

Amer­ic­ans for Tax Re­form pres. Grover Nor­quist writes, for Fin­an­cial Times: “The party and its en­er­gized Tea Party act­iv­ists have a habit of be­com­ing dis­trac­ted by ‘shiny’ things — is­sues that cap­tiv­ate ra­dio talk show hosts but fail to move voters. Ari­zona’s re­strict­ive im­mig­ra­tion law and the pro­posed mosque in lower Man­hat­tan are ob­vi­ous ex­amples. Spec­u­lat­ing on the pre­cise loc­a­tion where Mr. Obama was born is an­oth­er. Some so­cial con­ser­vat­ives are try­ing to push to the fore the is­sue of gay mar­riage or gays in the mil­it­ary, and that too is a dis­trac­tion.”

“If Re­pub­lic­ans stay fo­cused on spend­ing they will tri­umph. But the Demo­crats know that, and will throw a shower of bling in­to the air hop­ing to dis­tract both voters and their chal­lengers. To win, these di­ver­sions must be ig­nored” (Knick­erboker, Chris­ti­an Sci­ence Mon­it­or, 10/10).

Ju­di­cial Re­view

Justice Clar­ence Thomas wife Vir­gin­ia Thomas gave a key­note at the con­ven­tion. “This year she has emerged in her most polit­ic­ally prom­in­ent role yet”: as Liberty Cent­ral founder/chair, an org “ded­ic­ated to op­pos­ing what she char­ac­ter­izes as … left­ist ‘tyranny’ … and to ‘pro­tect­ing the core found­ing prin­ciples’ of the na­tion.” V. Thomas says it will “be big­ger than the Tea Party move­ment.”

“It is the most par­tis­an role ever for” a Justice’s wife and to some who study ju­di­cial eth­ics “is rais­ing knotty ques­tions, in par­tic­u­lar about her ac­cept­ance of large, uniden­ti­fied con­tri­bu­tions for Liberty Cent­ral.” Liberty Cent­ral “re­por­ted the ini­tial” $550K on its ‘09 “tax re­turn, though the iden­tit­ies of the two donors are re­dac­ted.”

Stan­ford Univ. prof. De­borah Rhode: “It’s shock­ing that you would have a Su­preme Court justice sit­ting on a case that might im­plic­ate in a very fun­da­ment­al way the in­terests of someone who might have con­trib­uted to his wife’s or­gan­iz­a­tion. The fact that we can’t find that out is the first prob­lem. And how can the pub­lic form a judg­ment about pro­pri­ety if it doesn’t have the ba­sic un­der­ly­ing facts?”

North­west­ern Law prof. Steven Lub­et: “I think this is the world we live in, where two-ca­reer fam­il­ies are the norm and there are no con­straints on the polit­ic­al activ­it­ies of ju­di­cial spouses.”

NYU prof. Steph­en Gillers: “There’s noth­ing to stop Ginni Thomas from be­ing polit­ic­ally act­ive. She’s a private cit­izen and she has all of her con­sti­tu­tion­al rights” (Calmes, New York Times, 10/8).

New­s­week’s Miller writes: “Bar­ring the ap­pear­ance of Clar­ence Thomas at a Tea Party rally, even reas­on­able crit­ics can’t find any eth­ic­al im­pro­pri­ety in Ginni’s pub­lic role. … Lib­er­als may not like Ginni — or Clar­ence—Thomas — but it’s hard not to see her as­cend­ancy as a good thing”: his­tor­ic­ally, SCOTUS wives were either com­pletely over­shad­owed by their hus­bands or played the role of host­ess (10/9)

I Speak For Him

SEN nom­in­ee/atty Joe Miller (R-AK), in an in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Re­view: “I think there’s an un­der­stand­ing that the mood of the na­tion has changed in such a way that there is not go­ing to be tol­er­a­tion of busi­ness as usu­al. If that means shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment, so be it. I mean, we’ll do what it takes.”

Miller, on Sen­ate Min. Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell’s sup­port for a shut­down: “There was a com­ment made at break­fast this morn­ing about shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment, and he re­acted in a pos­it­ive way. I’m not go­ing to quote him, but I think that he re­cog­nizes that that’s on the table.”

A Mc­Con­nell spokes­per­son: “He has not called for shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment. … We have much more work to do in or­der re­verse the trend of massive growth in gov­ern­ment we have seen un­der Demo­crat­ic Con­trol in Con­gress. We can get there without shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment, but it will re­quire Demo­crats to join our ef­fort” (Wein­er, Wash­ing­ton Post, 10/8).

JK

Rep. Kev­in Mc­Carthy (R-CA) 10/10 “dis­missed ‘ru­mors’ that the GOP is try­ing to per­suade mod­er­ate” Dems “to switch parties” (Hunt, Politico, 10/10).

Where’s Bush?

While Bill Clin­ton “is busy on the cam­paign trail,” George W. Bush is “holed up” in TX. “Aides say he has no plans to be a fig­ure in this year’s elec­tions.” GOP “strategists are quick to say they re­spect the former pres­id­ent but add they are not beg­ging him to join can­did­ates at ral­lies” (AP, 10/9).

As many of my friends and col­leagues from around the world con­verged on a town in Le­ban­on to bid farewell to An­thony Shadid, I spent the past days read­ing his latest book, House of Stone. It had been sit­ting on my desk for sev­er­al weeks; I’d been wait­ing to read it, ready to sa­vor his tales of the idio­syn­crat­ic be­ha­vi­or of the vil­la­gers in Mar­jayoun, where he was re­build­ing his great-grand­fath­er’s house. I was look­ing for­ward to laugh­ing over an­ec­dotes that I, also of Le­banese des­cent, could eas­ily pic­ture.

But with An­thony’s tra­gic death last week at age 43, there was no time for leis­ure. So it was bit­ter­sweet to open his book and hear his voice. It is still too raw to ac­cept that I can nev­er ask him about stor­ies that made me laugh out loud, or those that made my hands tight­en in mourn­ing.

I al­ways thought that An­thony, an award-win­ning re­port­er for The New York Times, wrote Eng­lish in Ar­ab­ic. He was lyr­ic­al, in the way that Ar­ab­ic is. It’s an evoc­at­ive and col­or­ful lan­guage. People don’t merely say Good morn­ing to you, for ex­ample; it’s rather Morn­ing of flowers. I felt in his writ­ing the col­or and tex­ture of a place and its people, their con­flicts and poisoned choices re­coun­ted in an un­flinch­ing way that, thank­fully, made it to the front pages of news­pa­pers — most re­cently The Times — for­cing oth­ers to read and per­haps gain some un­der­stand­ing of what war really meant to those who had to en­dure it.

In 2006, after Is­rael ob­lit­er­ated much of Le­ban­on’s south in its war with Hezbol­lah, An­thony de­cided to re­store the stone house that his great-grand­fath­er Is­ber Samara built in the early 1900s.

It’s a sen­ti­ment I un­der­stood. While An­thony was clear­ing broken tile and glass shattered by an Is­raeli rock­et on the sunken second floor, I was down­ing end­less cups of bit­ter cof­fee with the may­or of Jdeideh, a Beirut sub­urb. I was per­suad­ing the may­or to give me a copy of the re­gistry list­ing all the Tara­bays who had lived there. Weeks later, he handed over to me a red ma­nila folder cata­loguing my grand­fath­er, his wife, their 14 chil­dren, and my great-grand­fath­er and his wife and all their chil­dren; the earli­est entry was the late 1800s. That was when Hana Tara­bay left his moun­tain vil­lage of Baskinta to work the rolling farm­lands of Beirut. Any fur­ther Tara­bays, May­or Youssef Safi told me, I would have to go up the moun­tain to find. I al­ways wanted to get there, but Bagh­dad and oth­er wars called me in­stead.

He took a year out of life to live in Mar­jayoun, which means “field of springs.”

But An­thony stayed. He took a year out of his life to live in Mar­jayoun, which means “field of springs.” There he stayed to ca­jole, be­rate, in­flame, and pay, pay, pay to bring back Is­ber’s house — a house in which, as an “heir to Is­ber Samara,” he owned barely a 1 per­cent share. He did it for his daugh­ter, Laila, whose name he weaves throughout his book in a fi­nal let­ter of love to the young girl he says has been be­trayed by his ca­reer. At one point, lonely in Mar­jayoun, he writes: “I of­ten pic­ture my daugh­ter Laila walk­ing past the stone wall, up the buck­ling drive­way, and to­ward the an­tique door I was de­term­ined to save. I thought of the day I would bring her here, to a house she could call hers.”

At the core of An­thony’s book — between the in­furi­at­ing con­tract­ors, meddle­some vil­la­gers and re­l­at­ives, and a war sput­ter­ing in the back­ground — is the need for a home. The Ar­ab­ic word is bayt, and as he writes: “Home, wheth­er it be struc­ture or fa­mil­i­ar ground, is, fi­nally, the iden­tity that does not fade.”

Home is in the heart of every per­son trans­por­ted to a new life, wheth­er in a dif­fer­ent town or a dif­fer­ent coun­try. Tu­mult took An­thony’s an­cest­ors from the vil­lage of Mar­jayoun to Amer­ica, from Texas to Ok­lahoma. It’s what took mil­lions of oth­er Le­banese to new lives in Africa, Aus­tralia, and South Amer­ica. It’s what’s tak­ing people away from the carnage in Ir­aq, Syr­ia, or Libya — places they may nev­er see again.

When he ex­plains the tra­ject­ory of Is­ber Samara’s life, in­ter­woven with his own quest to re­store the stone house, An­thony casts a light on the near-uni­ver­sal ex­per­i­ence of the im­mig­rant, wheth­er polit­ic­al or eco­nom­ic. A man might be a doc­tor in his ho­met­own, but in a new land where elec­tri­city runs 24 hours and uni­formed men don’t care what sect you be­long to, he is a taxi driver, a jan­it­or, or a gro­cery-store own­er.

That feel­ing is what lives in the heart of every­one who knows they have a home some­where and dreams they may one day be able to see it. An­thony fin­ished the house and har­ves­ted olives; he ima­gined eat­ing some with his daugh­ter from the tree he planted for her when he began the renov­a­tions.

We know what we’ve lost in a journ­al­ist whose un­par­alleled dis­patches from the Middle East summoned us in­to broken lives strug­gling to sur­vive. We know what we’ve lost in a friend who, in a world of ego­ma­ni­acs and bul­let chasers, nev­er threw his suc­cess in any­one’s face. But more than any­thing, we know what An­thony’s fam­ily will nev­er again have, and that is the greatest loss of all.

Late one af­ter­noon over the week­end, I played soc­cer with my 3-year-old son, acutely aware that An­thony would nev­er see his son, Ma­lik, mark his second birth­day. In the face of that pain, I smiled at my boy, chased the ball around our garden with him, and thought of my lost friend as the sun dis­ap­peared in­to the gray sky.

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