Mitt Romney’s ‘Believe in America’

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April 11, 2011, noon

Three weeks in­to the new fall TV sea­son, CBS, a net­work that “em­braces the sup­posedly dy­ing no­tion of be­ing a broad­caster,” wel­comed “serenity.” CBS has “man­aged to avoid, on every night, across every hour of prime time, the kind of fail­ure that has vis­ited all of its main com­pet­it­ors.”

CBS, has al­ways held “strong” with “older view­ers,” but lacked in the “18 to 49” age group, which ad­vert­isers “pay a premi­um to reach.” Al­though “CBS has missed out on those premi­ums in that past,” this “sea­son looks dif­fer­ent” since CBS has “won that cat­egory each week so far.” And they seem to be “win­ning every­where.” Ac­cord­ing to Nielsen, since, ‘87, CBS has “nev­er be­fore won the first two weeks of a prime-time sea­son in all the big rat­ings cat­egor­ies.”

So far this sea­son, “all five new CBS series have so far beaten every oth­er new entry in terms of total view­ers.” While, Fox and ABC saw “in­stant re­jec­tion” on a few of their new shows. Along with new shows already be­ing picked up for a “full sea­son,” CBS’ “usu­ally high” sched­ule changes “all worked.”

And the big “eye-open­er” in­volves “the over­all pic­ture for CBS, which is fin­ish­ing last on no night of the week.” And even bet­ter news for the net, CBS “is not fin­ish­ing last in any of the 22 hours that con­sti­tute the prime-time week, and is al­most al­ways first or second.”

The suc­cess is “built around” the nets “steady ac­cu­mu­la­tion of pro­gram­ming as­sets,” and they have ad­ded a “valu­able” pro­gram every sea­son. CBS is “dom­in­ant” in every age group and just “a tenth of a rat­ing point be­hind NBC and ABC.” Which has made “Wall Street” no­tice. CBS’ “share price” “hovered re­cently near its 52-week high of $17.64.”

CBS head Moonves: “Be­ing a broad­caster means even more today than be­fore. We should be even farther away from the cable net­works, not try­ing to get closer to them.” CBS has pilled up “suc­cess­ful shows” and un­like oth­er nets, “CBS does not have a cache of luc­rat­ive cable chan­nels to rely on.” However their “con­sist­ency has al­lowed it to in­tro­duce new shows only in time peri­ods where they are sur­roun­ded by oth­er suc­cesses.”

TV ana­lyst Steve Stern­berg: “For at least the past dec­ade, CBS has had the most loy­al view­ers in the sense that they al­ways seem ready, will­ing and able to check out the net­work’s new of­fer­ings.”

And Moonves con­cluded: “The philo­sophy hasn’t changed, and neither has the man­age­ment” (Carter, New York Times, 10/10).

“Early Show” lead with the trapped Chilean miners. “Today” and “GMA” lead with the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing NY GOV’s Carl Paladino (R). All hos­ted Paladino.

Con­ser­vat­ive com­ment­at­or Ann Coulter was pro­filed 10/10 in New York Times Magazine. The piece fo­cused largely on her re­la­tion­ship with con­ser­vat­ive gays and les­bi­ans. GO­Proud chair Chris­toph­er Bar­ron, on Coulter: “Among gay con­ser­vat­ives, she is an icon. We could not think of any­one who we would want to party with more.”

And friend HBO’s Bill Ma­h­er, a liber­tari­an, says “I hap­pen to think that Ann be­lieves everything she says. It is a bunch of show busi­ness. You are work­ing in the me­dia. You are in makeup.”

The piece also de­tails, what Ann calls her “greatest achieve­ments,” the “un­do­ing of Pres­id­ent Clin­ton” where she used her “column and tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances” to “help im­peach the pres­id­ent.”

And with her books, columns and TV ap­pear­ances, Anne does have time to date but says: “It’s a little bit weird how ut­terly, laugh­able sol­it­ary I am” (Holson, 10/10).

NBC “To­night Show” host Jay Leno vis­ited Wasilla, AK to “help open an Air Force Re­serve re­cruit­ing of­fice.” He was to also “per­form a show” Sat at Joint Base El­men­d­orf-Richard­son in An­chor­age.

At a rib­bon cut­ting event, Leno “shook hands with fans and in­spec­ted sev­er­al vehicles driv­en to the event,” but did meet ex-Gov Sarah Pal­in (R) (AP, New York Post, 10/11).

Ex-CN­BC head Jonath­an Wald “is in talks to over­see” CNN’s new show hos­ted by Piers Mor­gan. Wald, “a TV news heavy­weight who left the busi­ness net­work last year,” was “also the boss of the ‘Today’ with Tom Brokaw was host.

CNN is said “to be anxious to close a deal quickly” (Shain, New York Post, 10/11).

And Mor­gan is look­ing to pick a fight. Mor­gan said he is ready to take on MS­N­BC and FNC. Mor­gan: “I’ve built a ca­reer on that. You’ve got to choose your tar­gets.”

Mor­gan, on FNC host Bill O’Re­illy be­ing liked and hated: “That’s when you know you’re a suc­cess — half the people love you and half think you’re a douche bag” (New York Post, 10/11).

Au­thor/journ­al­ist Bob Wood­ward joined “Re­li­able Sources” on 10/10 and talked about the idea he floated about Sec/State Hil­lary Clin­ton be­com­ing VP.

Wood­ward, on wheth­er say­ing Clin­ton as VP was “on the table” means it was “act­ively dis­cussed”: “No, no. On the table, that book is on the table, right? That doesn’t mean you’re go­ing to read it this week. You know, maybe you’re go­ing to read it some­time, maybe on your sum­mer va­ca­tion.”

Wood­ward, on wheth­er he man­u­fac­tured the con­tro­versy: “No. No, I did noth­ing ex­cept say­ing what was in the book, and that when we get in­to the polit­ic­al sea­son of 2012, this is an as­sess­ment that Obama and his team are go­ing to have to make.”

Wood­ward, on wheth­er cable news hosts and pun­dits are over in­ter­pret­ing what he said: “You know, the news is what it is. You can’t com­plain that they did too much or too little. They do what they do. What I do worry about is that there’s a kind of trivi­al­iz­a­tion, and that that is­sue is something that will be im­port­ant per­haps if some­body de­cides to act on it in a year or two. But the book is about war, and the book is about truly the most ser­i­ous mat­ter con­front­ing the Pres­id­ent and na­tion­al se­cur­ity” (CNN, 10/10).

FNC host Glenn Beck an­nounced 10/8 on his ra­dio show that “he has prob­lems with feel­ing in his hands and feet.” Beck will go “out west” to un­der­go “tests” and will be ab­sent for a “few days” (Al­fano, New York Daily News, 10/8).

Seth Mey­ers: “Delaware Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate can­did­ate Christine O’Don­nell blamed her cam­paign’s re­cent troubles on un­fair cov­er­age in the lib­er­al me­dia. Yep, the lib­er­al me­dia used two of its fa­vor­ite tricks on her, re­cord and play. … While speak­ing at a wo­men’s con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day, Pres­id­ent Obama‘s speech was in­ter­rup­ted when the pres­id­en­tial seal on his po­di­um fell off two years early. … Don­ald Trump con­firmed Wed­nes­day that he is ser­i­ously con­sid­er­ing a run for pres­id­ent in 2012, though I’m not sure that we’re go­ing to solve the un­em­ploy­ment crisis with a guy whose catch phrase is, ‘You’re fired.’ North Car­o­lina state Rep­res­ent­at­ive Larry Brown cre­ated a con­tro­versy this week when he sent an e-mail to oth­er law­makers re­fer­ring to ho­mo­sexu­als as queers and froot loops. And Larry Brown gets caught with a male es­cort count­down be­gins now” (“SNL,” NBC, 10/11).

Bill Ma­h­er: “Re­mem­ber Lou Dobbs on CNN who was al­ways rail­ing against il­leg­al im­mig­rants and the people who hired them. Turns out Lou Dobbs hires il­leg­al im­mig­rants. I was shocked. Lou Dobbs is mar­ried to Meg Whit­man? What is it with con­ser­vat­ives? Ser­i­ously. I’m not try­ing to be par­tis­an. But it seems like if they’re anti-il­leg­al ali­ens. They have il­leg­al ali­ens work­ing for them. If they’re anti-gay, they turn out to be gay. If they’re su­per chris­ti­an, they’re a witch. … You know I love Christine O’Don­nell. I love her. But she has an ad. That she fi­nally came out of hid­ing and put out an ad this week. Did you see this? The first words of the ad, right up front, it says, ‘I am not a witch.’ Which I guess I have to take re­spons­ib­il­ity for. … This is first time a can­did­ate had to deny be­ing a witch in a cam­paign ad since, I got go back to the Mas­sachu­setts primary of 1692. And it’s funny be­cause you know, polit­ic­al ex­perts say the one thing you’re not sup­posed to do as a politi­cian ever is say I am not something. Re­mem­ber Nix­on ‘I am not a crook,’ Bill Clin­ton, ‘I did not have sex with that wo­man’ and yet they keep do­ing it. Carly Fior­ina has an ad out here, run­ning where she says, ‘I am not that butch gym teach­er from Glee.’ Now, of course, Christine O’Don­nell is blam­ing the lib­er­al me­dia, ie me. But you know, what Christine, I just showed clips of you open­ing your mouth and crazy shit com­ing out. If you want to blame some­body, honey, look at the re­flec­tion in your caldron, that’s all I have to say. She is be­hind. I don’t think it’s be­cause of her witch thing. I think it’s be­cause of her anti-mas­turb­a­tion stance. She’s very ser­i­ous about that. And people in Delaware are go­ing, come on, I live in Delaware. What else am I sup­posed to do? I kid Delaware. Right here in Cali­for­nia we also have a bit of a scan­dal. Jerry Brown, did you hear about this? He was leav­ing a mes­sage on some­body’s phone line. And he thought he hung up. But he didn’t. And then you can hear someone say ‘Meg Whit­man is a whore.’ You know some can­did­ates have trouble with the in­ter­net or face­book or twit­ter. Jerry is still get­ting the hang of the phone. Call­ing Meg Whit­man a whore. Meg was so shocked, she fell off her street corner. What they’re re­act­ing to is that Meg Whit­man had prom­ised not to cut the cops’ pen­sion fund and then they gave her $450 grand. If she’s not a whore. She’s whore ad­ja­cent, ok? Now here’s the real nut this week. Shar­ron Angle. Any­body know this per­son? Any­body from Nevada? Every week this wo­man gets cra­zi­er. Now she says that Sharia Law, you know what Sharia Law is? It’s a strict Is­lam­ic law like they have in Saudi Ar­a­bia. Is tak­ing hold in Amer­ic­an cit­ies in Michigan and Texas. Even Glenn Beck says, where does he get this shit? You know what, we have banks steal­ing houses they don’t even own in this coun­try. I’m more wor­ried about Amer­ic­an law. And Todd Pal­in, have you heard this story? Ok. In Alaska Joe Miller, he’s the Tea Bag­ger who’s run­ning for Sen­ate. They got in­to a big brouhaha. Be­cause ap­par­ently Sarah Pal­in put this guy on the map, then this guy Joe Miller was asked if Sarah Pal­in could be pres­id­ent. And he kind of, I don’t know. So then Todd Pal­in all pissed off, wrote him a bunch of emails full of gram­mat­ic­al er­rors, spelling er­rors. Don’t fuck with Todd Pal­in. He will make you an of­fer he can’t pro­nounce. I’m ser­i­ous. You mess with Todd Pal­in, you could end up with a horse’s ass in your bed, like he does every day. And fi­nally, here’s my fa­vor­ite note from the cam­paign trail. This week Re­pub­lic­ans in West Vir­gin­ia had to take down an ad be­cause it re­vealed that the cast­ing call for cam­paign they were mak­ing against the Demo­crat asked for act­ors who could act ‘hicky.’ They were mak­ing an ad where these blue col­lar types were sit­ting around in a diner in flan­nel shirts bitch­ing about Obama. Which raises the ques­tion. Why get act­ors? Why not just walk in­to a waffle house in Texas and press re­cord” (“Real Time,” HBO, 10/8).

Jay Leno: “And some early Hal­loween news from Delaware. It looks like anti-mas­turb­a­tion can­did­ate Christine O’Don­nell will be dress­ing up as like a US Sen­at­or this year, be­cause ap­par­ently it’s gonna be her only chance. … Have you seen Christine O’Don­nell’s cam­paign com­mer­cial where she says, ‘I am not a witch.’ Well, she has a new ad out. In this one she says, ‘I didn’t go to Yale like my op­pon­ent.’ I mean, is that where were in this coun­try now? You’re sup­posed to be ashamed that you went to Yale? Didn’t that used to be a good thing, be­ing edu­cated? What are we, the Taliban now? ‘You know, I didn’t go to high school, like my op­pon­ent.’ … The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced this week that they have de­por­ted a re­cord 392,000 il­leg­al im­mig­rants in the past year. Most of those were de­por­ted on a Fri­day. This way they got to spend a won­der­ful week­end in Mex­ico with their fam­il­ies be­fore re­turn­ing on Monday. So that worked out very nicely. … Now be­gin al­leged that Lou Dobbs, you know him, Mr. Anti-Im­mig­ra­tion. Well they’re now say­ing he had il­leg­al im­mig­rants work­ing for him. The good news, now qual­i­fied to run for Gov­ernor of Cali­for­nia. … In his de­fense, Lou Dobbs is say­ing it’s lie. He said, he nev­er hired any il­leg­al work­ers. So it looks like we’ve got a Mex­ic­an stand off. … Now, Jerry Brown has apo­lo­gized to Meg Whit­man after … a cam­paign aide rather called her a whore in a phone con­ver­sa­tion. Let me tell you that was totally out of line, okay? Politi­cians don’t be­come whores un­til after they’re elec­ted. Okay? … And Eli­ot Spitzer‘s new show premiered this week on CNN. There’s a switch, some­body pay­ing him for a hour. Boy, that nev­er hap­pens” (“To­night Show,” NBC, 10/8).

Dav­id Let­ter­man: “Happy birth­day to Bo, the White House dog. You know how they say dogs start to look like own­ers and own­ers start to look like dogs and vice versa. Bo is be­hav­ing like his own­er. He blames all the coun­try’s prob­lem on Pres­id­ent Bush‘s dog. It’s in­ter­est­ing. Bo can fetch, he can beg, he can sit up, he can shake hands, he can role, no wait a minute, that’s Biden. That’s Biden. Here’s the great thing about Amer­ica. Do you re­mem­ber we had the Gov­ernor of New York named Eli­ot Spitzer. He got in trouble was he en­joyed whores, and so had to go away. He’s back now with his own show on CNN. Isn’t that crazy. The guy’s got his own show nightly on CNN, like an hour I think every night Monday through Fri­day. And it’s in­ter­est­ing, out of habit, the first week at the end of each show he would leave a couple grand on the table. It was aw­ful. It was just aw­ful. I feel bad for Pres­id­ent Obama be­cause you know every­body’s ganging up on the guy. First you had the eco­nomy and then they had the bail­outs and then did it get bet­ter, nobody’s get­ting money, nobody’s get­ting any jobs but they say it’s get­ting bet­ter. No money no jobs. Then he had that hor­rible thing in the Gulf of Mex­ico and that was just god aw­ful and then those poor guys in the mine in which in Chile. … See what I’m talk­ing about, just one thing after an­oth­er. So now what he’s do­ing, he’s go­ing to your house now and he’ll have a back­yard meet­ing about the eco­nomy. It’s like, it’s a great idea but I mean there’s a lot of places to go. And he’s try­ing to en­er­gize people and say it’s go­ing to be okay. I’m com­ing to your back­yard and I’ll an­swer all your ques­tions. Some­times it works, some­times it doesn’t work so great, you know what I mean” (“Late Show,” CBS, 10/8).

Jimmy Fal­lon: “Pres­id­ent Obama has de­cided not to sign a bill that would make it dif­fi­cult for home own­ers to fight fore­clos­ure. Man, why is Obama all the sud­den so sens­it­ive about people be­ing kicked out of there house? Oh yeah, sorry” (“Late Night,” NBC, 10/8).

This week’s re­sound­ing vote in Ohio re­pu­di­at­ing a Re­pub­lic­an an­ti­union law should provide a clear warn­ing to the con­gres­sion­al de­fi­cit-re­duc­tion su­per com­mit­tee, es­pe­cially its GOP mem­bers.

The lop­sided bal­lot-ini­ti­at­ive res­ult re­peal­ing Re­pub­lic­an Gov. John Kasich’s prized SB 5 le­gis­la­tion re­strict­ing col­lect­ive-bar­gain­ing rights for pub­lic em­ploy­ees re­af­firms a les­son evid­ent from the past three dec­ades of budget wars in Wash­ing­ton: It is vir­tu­ally im­possible to sell voters on a sig­ni­fic­ant re­trench­ment of pub­lic be­ne­fits without bi­par­tis­an sup­port and a com­pel­ling case that the changes are linked to broadly shared sac­ri­fice.

That mes­sage is es­pe­cially im­port­ant for Re­pub­lic­ans, be­cause one of the biggest hurdles to a com­pre­hens­ive de­fi­cit agree­ment is the ex­pect­a­tion among many in the GOP that after the 2012 elec­tion they will hold uni­fied con­trol of Con­gress and the White House and can simply im­pose their pre­ferred solu­tions without com­prom­ise or polit­ic­al cost. His­tory — un­der­lined by this week’s Ohio res­ult — sug­gests that ex­pect­a­tion rep­res­ents a huge gamble.

In many ways, the Ohio le­gis­la­tion that voters over­turned this week fol­lowed the mod­el that many Re­pub­lic­ans en­vi­sion for 2013 in Wash­ing­ton. With uni­fied con­trol of the gov­ernor­ship and both cham­bers of the state Le­gis­lature, state Re­pub­lic­ans passed sweep­ing le­gis­la­tion lim­it­ing the col­lect­ive-bar­gain­ing rights of pub­lic em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing po­lice and fire­fight­ers. The bill, which also rolled back pen­sion and health be­ne­fits and banned strikes, passed the state Sen­ate nar­rowly and the state House com­fort­ably, in each case without sup­port from a single Demo­crat. When Kasich signed the bill last March, he ex­pli­citly por­trayed it as the sort of eco­nom­iz­ing that would be re­quired to cut taxes. “Help­ing loc­al gov­ern­ments re­duce their costs so they can be­gin light­en­ing Ohio’s tax bur­den helps us com­pete bet­ter against states that are far friend­li­er to job cre­at­ors,” he de­clared.

But uni­ons quickly ob­tained enough sig­na­tures to place a re­peal ini­ti­at­ive on the bal­lot. Once they did, they ef­fect­ively in­ver­ted Kasich’s ar­gu­ment: An early ad from the re­peal cam­paign charged that politi­cians were “blam­ing pub­lic em­ploy­ees” for the state’s budget woes even as they were “fun­nel­ing over $100 mil­lion in tax breaks to their cor­por­ate cam­paign con­trib­ut­ors.” Though Kasich barn­stormed to de­fend his le­gis­la­tion, the re­peal ini­ti­at­ive got more than three-fifths of the vote. And as Steve Rosenth­al, cofounder of the Demo­crat­ic data firm the At­las Pro­ject, noted in an ana­lys­is this week, the re­peal passed in all but six of the state’s counties, with mar­gins con­sist­ently ex­ceed­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s in 2008.

Kasich’s ex­per­i­ence should be a red flag for con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans be­cause it so closely ap­prox­im­ates the strategy many of them en­vi­sion. Most Re­pub­lic­ans un­der­stand­ably like their odds of win­ning the White House, and ma­jor­it­ies in the Sen­ate and House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives, next year. By hold­ing those cards in 2013, they be­lieve they can pass a de­fi­cit-slash­ing budget on a party-line basis that would dra­mat­ic­ally shrink en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams — by con­vert­ing Medi­caid in­to a block grant and Medi­care in­to a vouch­er sys­tem — without in­clud­ing any tax in­creases (and maybe cut­ting taxes fur­ther). That glim­mer­ing pos­sib­il­ity is one reas­on so many in the GOP are re­luct­ant to strike a deal now in which Demo­crats would ac­cept en­ti­tle­ment cuts in re­turn for Re­pub­lic­an ac­qui­es­cence to tax in­creases.

But the Ohio vote shows how dif­fi­cult in prac­tice it would be for Re­pub­lic­ans, even if they win uni­fied con­trol in 2013, to hold pub­lic sup­port while cut­ting en­ti­tle­ments and main­tain­ing (or ex­pand­ing) tax cuts for the wealthy without any bi­par­tis­an cov­er. Since 1980, Re­pub­lic­ans have tried three times to re­trench fed­er­al en­ti­tle­ments on a party-line basis: So­cial Se­cur­ity un­der Ron­ald Re­agan and George W. Bush, and Medi­care un­der Newt Gin­grich in 1995. Each ef­fort failed — and helped pre­cip­it­ate GOP losses in the next elec­tion.

That con­sist­ent his­tory — and this week’s big up­ris­ing against Kasich — un­der­score the valid­ity of the ax­iom that Gene Sper­ling, dir­ect­or of Obama’s Na­tion­al Eco­nom­ic Coun­cil, coined in a re­cent speech: “Nobody likes de­fi­cit-re­duc­tion plans. Suc­cess­ful de­fi­cit-re­duc­tion plans are agree­ments that every­body hates equally in an even and fair way.” Bal­ance and equit­ably shared sac­ri­fice is pre­cisely what Ohio voters be­lieved SB 5 lacked.

The odd thing about the su­per com­mit­tee’s wait­ing game is that there’s little mys­tery about what a bal­anced pro­pos­al should con­tain. The Simpson-Bowles and Domen­ici-Rivlin de­fi­cit-re­duc­tion com­mis­sions, and the bi­par­tis­an Sen­ate Gang of Six, all pro­duced broadly over­lap­ping blue­prints. At a time when fed­er­al rev­en­ue, meas­ured as a share of the eco­nomy, has fallen to its low­est point since 1950, and pay­ments to in­di­vidu­als (mostly through en­ti­tle­ment pro­grams) con­sume more than three-fifths of the fed­er­al budget, there’s no secret to the for­mula for restor­ing fisc­al sus­tain­ab­il­ity.

The ques­tions sur­round­ing the com­mit­tee — and the lar­ger de­fi­cit de­bate — are en­tirely polit­ic­al. Neither party alone can pass a re­sponse of the mag­nitude this prob­lem de­mands. Tax in­creases and en­ti­tle­ment cuts are each the key to the oth­er. Demo­crats can­not ac­cept the lat­ter without the former. For Re­pub­lic­ans, it’s the re­verse. Prob­ably the only way to pass either and live to tell about it is to pass both. This week’s earth­quake in Ohio shows what hap­pens when politi­cians ig­nore that straight­for­ward les­son. 

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