Chris Christie: Not Actually a Hypocrite
I'm a big fan of Chris Moody's reporting, but I think he swings and misses with this one. Or maybe gets on base but is tagged out quickly. Someone, please send me better sports analogies.
Chris Christie criticized strategists for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign on Sunday, saying no one should “give a darn” about their political advice, but the New Jersey Republican governor isn’t nearly as dismissive of their input as he lets on.
During his re-election campaign this year, Christie hired a political consultancy firm run by Romney’s former top strategists and paid more than $46,000 for their services.
But he didn't pay for "advice." As he did in 2009, Christie paid the Stevens & Schriefer Group to make stirring campaign ads. They did so, coming up with a campaign that referred to Christie, simply, as "the governor."
Point is, I don't think Christie sees this as a deal between himself and "Romney advisers." He re-upped with the firm that did his 2009 ads; he paid them to portray him as an awesome governor.
Democrats Might Have Won the Last Big Election of 2013 With an Overlooked Voting Machine
The vote count in Virginia's race for attorney general was expected to flip tomorrow, when provisional ballots from Fairfax County were counted again. As of this morning, Republican candidate Mark Obenshain was up by 15 votes statewide, out of more than 2 million cast; Democrats hoped that a break to their candidate, Northern Virginia's own Mark Herring, would allow him to take the lead.
But they didn't expect the reversal to happen today. Six days after the election, a precinct in the city of Richmond—Democratic turf—reported that not all of its machines had been counted. The Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman was among the reporters watching that count.
Voting machine #3791 in Richmond precinct 501 gave Herring (D) 153, Obenshain (R) 37. Its addition gives Herring #VAAG lead by 99 votes.— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 11, 2013
If that holds and there are no more big surprises (two big ifs), Democrats are now on track to sweep Virginia's statewide offices—gov, LG, AG—for the first time in more than 20 years.* I think a Herring victory would also mark the first time that a Republican AG who sued to stop the Affordable Care Act was replaced by a Democrat.
Correction, November 13, 2013: This post originally said Democrats are on track to sweep Virginia's statewide offices for the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson was president.
"Pryor Is Helping Obama Pack a Key Court With New Liberal Judges"
The not-so-secret story of Arkansas' U.S. Senate race is the role of outside money. Early this year, not long after the presidential election ended, the Club for Growth started dive-bombing the airwaves with anti-Pryor ads and conducting polls about a hypothetical challenge by Rep. Tom Cotton. The polls moved against Pryor—the hypothetical race became real.
So Arkansas is the state to watch if you want to see conservative messages tested in real time. This one, from the Judicial Crisis Network, marks the first instance I've seen of the filibusters of D.C. Circuit judges being used against a Democrat.
The ad's footnote makes it clear: the "packing" move was Pryor's vote to allow Patricia Millet's nomination to proceed. The continued Republican insistence that "court-packing" means allowing the twice-elected Democratic president to fill the empty circuit seats remains impressive.
CBS Botches the "Benghazi" Apology
On Friday I wrote about the amazingly successful campaign by progressive media-watchers to get 60 Minutes to apologize for its "Benghazi" story. But I gave short shrift to the current demand from Media Matters: that CBS conduct a "full investigation" of what went wrong, and why it ran a report tethered to the testimony of a defense contractor who had given superiors and the FBI a different account of 9/12/12 than he gave his book agent.
Given how CBS News handled the screw-up, the Media Matters ask makes sense. Last night's "apology" put reporter Lara Logan—who claimed the Benghazi report was the product of a year of journalism—in front of a screen telling viewers that nothing was more important than the truth. It was basically what she'd told Norah O'Donnell in a previous in-house apology. It didn't explain how the producers apparently got buffalo'd by a source whose fresh story added drama but no facts to the story. Brian Stelter and Bill Carter checked in with the critics.
“Aside from the fact that it struck a very passive tone and pushed the responsibility onto the source, Dylan Davies, it said nothing about how the show failed to properly vet the story of an admitted liar,” Mr. Silverman said in an email. “There are basic questions left unanswered about how the program checked out what Davies told them, and where this process failed.”
“In the short term, this will confirm the worst suspicions of people who don’t trust CBS News,” said Paul Friedman, CBS’s executive vice president for news until 2011. “In the long term, a lot will depend on how tough and transparent CBS can be in finding out how this happened — especially when there were not the kind of tight deadline pressures that sometimes result in errors.”
The liberal critics have their motives, sure, but in the meantime, if CBS doesn't explain what went wrong, the latest "break" in the Benghazi story continues to wither. And that's frustrating for the people who want to keep digging. "It appears to me as if they are trying to shoot the messenger here, rather than try to explain the total mishandling of this whole situation," John McCain told me for my story.
Ken Cuccinelli Probably Won in Virginia Because Maps
By a country mile, the most fun explanation I've seen for the defeat of Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia comes from Steve Jalsevac, a co-founder of the anti-abortion LifeSite News. Jalsevac shows readers a picture of the state's election map, and asks them if they want to live in such a crazy world.
All the solid red areas voted a majority for Cuccinelli. The small dark blue ares went Terry McAuliffe (Yes, I know those are the most densely populated areas of Virginia). The rest were mixed. Notice that the map seems to be almost solid red. And yet, Ken Cuccinelli somehow very narrowly lost to his Democrat opponent. To me, something smells about all this and I suspect Ken Cuccinelli actually won Virginia, but certain things happened to ensure that that would not be the official result.
Just a crazy analysis on one site, but you have to appreciate this sort of magical thinking for three reasons.
1) It gives false hope on election nights. Here, for fun, are two other maps of close races.
That's the 2008 race for U.S. Senate in Oregon. Democrat Jeff Merkley won seven counties, and won the election as ballots around Portland were counted. I remember driving through Georgia listening to talk radio and hearing confident predictions of how Merkley would lose because with 90 percent counted, he was still down.
That's the 2012 election in Pennsylvania, won by Barack Obama after the legendary "late play" made by Mitt Romney. The president won a mere 12 counties, but deviously chose the ones that humans lived in. On all three election nights (2008, 2012, 2013), you could hear conservatives blowing the predictions because they didn't know where the votes were.
2) The false hope leads to mistrust. At Cuccinelli's election night party, I overheard some Republican voters grousing about how Democrats were probably holding back Fairfax County so it could supply the last votes they needed. Yes, Fairfax County, a suburban area that voted Republican for president as recently as the year 2000—this was our new Chicago, our new Rio Grande Valley. It sounded crazy, yet it was the thinking that led a powerful Republican to insist that voter ID would let Mitt Romney win Pennsylvania—cancelling out those 200,000 fraudulent votes from Philly—and encourages Republican election-watchers in Fairfax County to tighten standards on the votes they're counting, after the election's over.
3) The "hey, look at all that red" theory skews our view of which party represents "real America," or "most of" America. It also ends up justifying gerrymandering. Republicans now wipe Democrats out in most of white, rural America, something that only really got underway in the Bush years and has become stark under Barack Obama.* When Obama won Ohio, he took only 17 counties, mostly the ones with population centers. When Jimmy Carter won Ohio, by a smaller margin, he won 28 counties. It wouldn't actually be tougher to draw a competitive map of Ohio now than it was then, but when the majority party gets wiped out with rural whites and gets over the line with urban black voters, it's easy to pack their base into a smaller number of districts and argue that you're being fair.
*When Mike Dukakis lost to George H.W. Bush, he won 33 counties in Oklahoma. No Oklahoma county has voted Democratic for president since 2000. Cherokee County was closest in 2012—Obama merely lost it by 14 points, while losing the state by 34 points.
Correction, November 11, 2013: This post originally said Obama lost Cherokee County by 16 points.
Chris Christie Proves Just How Stupid the Sunday Shows Are
In October 2006, a little further along in that presidential election cycle than we are now, freshman Sen. Barack Obama appeared on Meet the Press to hawk his new book. The subtext: Obama might run for president. But Tim Russert didn't lead off with a question about that.
"Let me start with Iraq, because you write about it in your book and you’ve been talking about it on the campaign a little bit," said Russert. "This is what you told New Yorker magazine: 'There’s an old saying in politics: when your opponent’s in trouble, just get out of the way... in political terms, I don’t think that Democrats are obligated to solve Iraq for the Administration.' Is there an obligation in non-political terms?"
As the interview went on, Russert picked quotes and numbers from Obama's book and threw them right back at the senator. Did he want to intervene in Darfur? Which government programs did he think weren't "working as advertised"? Why did he vote against John Roberts's confirmation?
None of this made news at the time, because by the end Russert asked whether it was "fair" to say Obama was considering a bid for president, and four months later Obama was running. But it was a model interview, one that got a slippery candidate to search for answers on a ton of policy questions.
I bring this up just to emphasize how laughable Sunday's rounds of interviews with Chris Christie went. If the governor of New Jersey came away thinking that the beltway media would be easier to conquer than the media in New Jersey, he could be excused -- no one even tried to lay a glove on him. Here, to start, are all the questions David Gregory asked him on Meet the Press.
Herman Cain Did Not Have Harassing Relations With That Woman, Ms. White
A couple of weeks ago, Herman Cain appeared at DePaul University and gave a young reporter at "the evidence" he'd soon unveil to debunk the 2011 sexual harassment scandal what brung him down.
The first charges that were reported, by a still-anonymous woman, "went to the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] and were dismissed," Cain said.
Celebrity attorney Gloria Allred held a press conference for her client, Sharon Bialek, who accused Cain of groping her over a decade ago. During that presser, Allred waved around alleged affidavits that she said corroborated her client's story. Cain said that no one has even seen Allred's affidavits.
Today the former presidential candidate, whose media empire is off to an invisible start, has published a comprehensive timeline of the scandal as he saw it. If you're still wondering what Cain has to say, to debunk the story, it is that Ginger White exploited him, texted him "by a ratio of more than 2.5 to 1" than he texted her, was cruelly exploitative of the press, and did an interview with George Stephanoupolous, who had been an adviser to Bill Clinton. Also, Howard Kurtz's the Daily Download had made fun of him, and no one read the site.
Yes, I think we've got the basics of this covered.
How Liberals Will Fail to Beat Hillary
Progressive Democrats in the House and Senate are attempting to shift the Overton window in budget discussions, and get their colleagues on board with an expansion of Social Security. This is a so-so story on its own, so it's being twinned in some places with a more speculative tale of whether this is Bad for Hillary. Dave Catanese:
“Social Security in 2016 could be the Iraq of 2008, meaning a definitive issue that primary voters make decisions based on,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which is leading a concerted charge for expansion of the FDR-era program. Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, characterized the coming battle over reforming the nation’s safety-net programs as a seminal moment for Democrats. “It’s a real point of conflict and battle within the Democratic Party. It endangers the Democrats’ ability to win elections. You don’t want to go into a presidential election saying, ‘I’m going to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.’ That’s the formula for making sure there’s not the first woman president.” And Justin Ruben, the head of the 8 million-member MoveOn.org, has been even more unequivocal, saying in April, “Any Democrat who is voting to cut Social Security benefits is probably kissing his or her presidential aspirations goodbye.”
Well, OK, but when exactly does Clinton get the chance to do that? She's not in elective office, and won't be unless she wins the presidency. If she ends up getting behind some "grand bargain" that would cut the welfare state, she could say so, but what in her record suggests that she would? If you go back to any of Clinton's economic statements from 2007 and 2008, they were generally progressive without being surprising.
"It isn't right that the wealthy and the well-connected have gotten so many more benefits than the middle class and working people have," said Clinton during the 2008 South Carolina primary. Her response:
- Tax increases "on the top."
- An expanded earned income tax credit.
- A moratorium on foreclosures.
Nothing on Social Security there, but since 2007 Clinton's been for subjecting more income to Social Security taxes. "Raising the retirement age is not an answer," she said during the campaign. "Cutting benefits is not an answer. We need to get back to the fiscal responsibility that we had in the 1990s, when we weren't draining the Social Security fund any more."
Point is, it's not like Clinton was a heretic on this the way she was a heretic on Iraq. The less clicky version of this story (actually, Catanese gets there) is one in which progressives in Congress move the party left, and Clinton adapts, the way Mitt Romney adapted from 2008 to 2012. That seems more realistic than a candidate starting further in the hole than anyone did against Hillary last time, and trying to rouse the base by pointing out that she took a speaking free from Goldman Sachs.
The White House's Website Still Says If You Like Your Plan You Can Keep It
The president's 24-minute sit-down with NBC's Chuck Todd was meant to close a chapter of the Obamacare Crisis. You didn't think the man with whom the Buck Stops was angry and regretful about cancelled individual insurance plans? He is! "We weren't as clear as we needed to be in terms of the changes that were taking place," said the president. "And I want to do everything we can to make sure that people are finding themselves in a good position—a better position than they were before this law happened."
It took some coaxing for Todd to get the president to an apology. (He was totally unsuccessful at getting the president to back a specific legislative response to the canceled plans.)
"I am sorry that they—you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me," said the president. "We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear 'em and that we're going to do everything we can, to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this."
Instead of a policy response, we get pain-feeling. It's what the punditocracy demanded, especially after noticing how the "mainstream" commentators of late-night comedy were unanimous in their mockery of the president. How fast was the pivot? So fast that the White House's health care page does not yet reflect it.
So they're going to need some surgery on the long tail. For a very long time, the White House's uncontested argument was that changes to grandfathered plans that led to the loss of those plans would not be the goverment's doing. "When I say if you have your plan and you like it, or you have a doctor and you like your doctor, that you don't have to change plans, what I'm saying is the government is not going to make you change plans under health reform," said the president in August 2009. Meaning: It would be the provider, not the government, that responded to new regulations by ending the plan.
This never made a ton of sense—if the insurer is responding to a government regulation, how is the government blameless?—but the argument was that such cancellations might happen anyway if the Affordable Care Act wasn't passed. It was tenable until the media decided it wasn't. So the administration, having delivered the apology, is going to try to reframe what's actually going to happen to those people currently angry at the cancellations. They would have been worse off if they'd kept them! They haven't considered their subsidies! And so on.
China Panic: The Movie
The political correctness police forced the horrendous Red Dawn remake to adapt from a scare-'em-up about China to a much less realistic/frightening allegory about North Korea. The makers of Dragon Day would not make such a weak concession to The Man. Look at the Middle Kingdom symbol that appears when the Chinese take over; look at the rich reds on the "loyalty" bands Americans must wear after the collapse.
The distributors at Matter Media say that Dragon Day has "a plot that’s eerily close to what might be just around the corner." Perhaps it's best watched as part of a double feature with the year's other major debt/fiat money panic film, Silver Circle.