The Romney/Ryan Empathy Deficit

I came into 2012 quite pessimistic. The economy was weak, most liberals I knew were committed to voting for Obama, but less enthusiastic than in 2008, while on the other side, the right-wingers were virtually bouncing off the walls with manic energy borne of hatred of Obama. Weak economy + enthusiasm gap = problems for Obama.

And obviously, this was the Romney calculus as well. Make the election a referendum on Obama, sit back, and profit.

But I think neither I, nor they, realized what a God-awful politician Mitt is. Now, there are a lot of skills that make for a good politician, of course. And it isn’t all about being personable. But you do need to make a connection.

Nixon was a miserable SOB, but had a long, extraordinary career because even though no one could ever imagine having a beer with the guy, there were a lot of people who identified with him. He was a surly, angry, insecure jerk, which made him a perfect standard bearer for a movement based on resentment.

GW Bush was an arrogant frat boy, but somehow managed to convey the impression that he’d be a nice guy to have a beer with. And unquestionably, a lot of people felt he had their interests at heart.

But Romney. He’s just devoid of a personal touch. He’s not really angry either. I mean, why would be he be? You don’t want to have a beer with him, nor can anyone see him as their standard bearer for some sort of resentment based crusade.

Romney could, I guess, have run as a genuine technocrat… but of course you can’t in today’s GOP since actual facts and logic are anathema.

Romney’s one option would have been to glom onto some sort of genuine populist Veep. But no, he goes for Ryan. Just a mind-boggling choice. Here is a guy who reinforces every negative image for Romney. He’s an “ideas guy,” whose main idea seems to be that if we just make life miserable enough for everyone good things will happen. A guy whose entire worldview is based around that idea that the poor are poor and the middle class is falling behind because, you know, they are lazy. Now, yes, he argues that most American are lazy, not because they are inherently lazy, but because the government makes them lazy, or something. But I don’t know, that just doesn’t seem like a plausible campaign theme, does it?

The Romney/Ryan line is, basically, “It isn’t all your fault you’re lazy, but you are lazy, and we’re gonna get you off your lazy, fat asses whether you like it or not.” Hmmm. Winner?

And how did Ryan come to this sophisticated worldview? Well, it isn’t just reading Ayn Rand. It also involves lots of cozy dinners with fellow right-wing cranks drinking $350 bottles of wine.

That’s the image of Ryan we need to keep front and center. Him, sitting there, whining about how liberals are mean to millionaires while plotting ways to fuck the poor, drinking bottles of wine that each cost more than many Americans take home in a week. Heartless. Out-of-touch. Self-righteous. And cruel.

This is a really a ticket of paired sociopaths. Completely devoid of any empathy for the rest of us. It isn’t that they can’t feel other people’s pain. Rather, they think pain is good for us, and they are going to provide it whether we like it or not.

Chicago Politics, Done Right

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Via commentor Comrade Mary, enjoy President Obama welcome the Robot/Undertaker 2012 act (h/t commentor Max) to the Big Show:

CHICAGO — Just over 24 hours after Rep. Paul Ryan was tapped for the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket, President Obama today welcomed the Wisconsin congressman to the race, branding him the “ideological leader of Republicans in Congress.”

Addressing donors at a campaign fundraiser on the south side of Chicago, Obama slammed his rivals’ belief in “top-down economics” as a solution to the nation’s economic woes, insisting the approach has been tried and failed.

“This kind of top-down economics is central to Gov. [Mitt] Romney and it is central to his running mate,” Obama told roughly 1,000 donors huddled inside the Bridgeport Arts Center.

“Just yesterday, my opponent chose his running mate, the ideological leader of Republicans in Congress, Mr. Paul Ryan. I want to congratulate Mr. Ryan. I know him. I welcome him to the race,” Obama said.

Some members of the crowd began booing at the mention of Ryan, but Obama cut them off.

“He is a decent man, he is a family man, he is an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney’s vision, but it is a vision that I fundamentally disagree with,” he said….

Yet Brutus is an honorable man; so are they all — all honorable men! Or as John Heilemann explicates the horse-race in NYMag:

So this was not a safe or conventional pick… This was a pick about ideas, about policies, about core convictions. But it was also a pick driven by political weakness. All along, Team Romney’s bedrock strategy has been to make the 2012 election a clean referendum on Obama’s economic management and leadership, an election about unemployment, growth, and wages. In elevating Ryan, what Team Romney has done is execute a sharp U-turn, embracing the theory that 2012 will not be a pure referendum but a choice election, and one in which the two sides’ contrasting approaches to the deficit, debt, entitlements, and taxes will take center stage. And while this is surely not a Hail Mary pass on the order of John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin, it is almost as much, as some Romneyites admit, an attempt to (pardon the expression) change the game.

All of which helps explain why the Obamans are grinning madly. It’s not simply that they, too, see the pick as an admission by Team Romney that its strategy was failing. Or that Ryan doesn’t clearly pass the test of being (and, crucially, looking) ready to be president. Or that his utter lack of private-sector bona fides undercuts, however mildly, Romney’s attacks on Obama for lacking same. It’s that Chicago and the White House perceive this as a broader capitulation regarding the core dynamic of the race: an acceptance of the “choice election” framing, which is exactly the frame that the incumbent and his people have embraced and attempted to propagate from the start.

And just why have they done that? Because they knew full well that if the race were purely a referendum on Obama, they would likely lose — but if bright lines could be drawn on values and visions regarding fiscal choices, that was the kind of election they could win. This was why Chicago was planning to hang the Ryan budget around Romney’s neck regardless of whether the congressman was on the ticket or not. Obama’s data jockeys have been polling and focus-grouping on this for months, and they are over the moon about what they have found. And while that data is guarded by lock, key, and Uzi-toting thugs (kidding — sorta), anyone interested in the topic should take a look at the work that Stan Greenberg and his team at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner did recently on the Ryan agenda and its electoral implications for Democracy Corps. To put it mildly, their conclusion is fairly bracing:

At the outset, the Ryan budget (described in Ryan’s actual language) barely garners majority support. And voters raise serious doubts when they hear about proposed cuts — particularly to Medicare, education, and children of the working poor. President Obama’s lead against Romney more than doubles when the election is framed as a choice between the two candidates’ positions on the Ryan budget — particularly its impact on the most vulnerable. The President makes significant gains among key groups, including independents and voters in the Rising American Electorate (the unmarried women, youth, and minority voters who drove Obama to victory in 2008).

Be of good cheer, Democrats!

Romney is Lying About President Obama Stealing Money from Medicare

Robot/Zombie 2012

Mitt Romney is still lying about Medicare — no surprise there. Also it is no surprise that Romney is now dog whistlin’ while he does it. It’s the southern strategy updated for the twenty-first century:

“There’s only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare,” Romney said.

“What Paul Ryan and I have talked about is saving Medicare, is providing people greater choice in Medicare, making sure it’s there for current seniors. No changes, by the way, for current seniors, or those nearing retirement. But looking for young people down the road and saying, “We’re going to give you a bigger choice.” In America, the nature of this country has been giving people more freedom, more choices. That’s how we make Medicare work down the road.”

Get it? He is “robbing” Medicare. The black guy is stealing money from seniors! He is coming for your wallet!

Loath as I am to cite Politifact, they clearly explain why the current talking point about Obama cutting $500 billion from Medicare is a steaming pile of horseshit:

There’s a small bit of truth here. The Affordable Care Act does reduce Medicare spending by $500 billion over the next 10 years. But here’s the catch: Those dollars aren’t taken out of the current budget, they are not actual cuts, and nowhere does the bill actually eliminate any current benefits.

The $500 billion is all in future spending reductions and come through the law’s attempts to slow projected growth, not cut spending.

PolitiFact National has highlighted the biggest bits of savings: About $220 billion comes from reducing annual increases in Medicare payments to health care providers. Another $36 billion comes from increasing premiums for higher-income beneficiaries. Administrative changes land another $12 billion in savings. A new national board is set to come up with $15.5 billion in savings — but can’t get those savings from a reduction in benefits. The last big chunk of $136 billion comes in changes to the Medicare Advantage program, which has become more expensive than initially anticipated.

If all those numbers make your eyes glaze over like they do mine, the bottom line is this: Read more

More on the Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver and His New Chief Enabler

This graphic was the initial reaction from Erick ‘Infinite’ Erickson at Redstate:

If it is Ryan, I’ll be quite happy. His departure from Congress would improve both Congress and the Romney campaign. It would improve Congress because too many people tend to lionize him when his record has some flaws. His presence often drowns out competing ideas that may be better and/or more conservative.

So, just barely conservative enough for the RS Strike Farce, but still an improvement on that wild-eyed communist Romney. Good to have a scale, for comparison purposes…

Mr. Pierce, as always, nails it:

Leave it to Willard Romney, international man of principle, to get himself bullied into being bold and independent.

Make no mistake. In his decision to make Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin, his running mate, Romney finally surrendered the tattered remnants of his soul not only to the extreme base of his party, but also to extremist economic policies, and to an extremist view of the country he seeks to lead. This is unimaginable to those of us who lived here under Romney’s barely perceptible stewardship of the Commonwealth (God save it!). If he’d even hinted that he agreed with a fraction of a smidgen of a portion of the policies on which Ryan has built his career, Romney would have been hanging from the Sacred Cod by the middle of 2005. And it’s hard not to notice that the way the decision got leaked — in the dead of a Friday night, with the Olympics still going on, after two weeks in which Romney and his campaign had demonstrated all the political skills of a handball — fairly dripped with flopsweat…

Paul Ryan is an authentically dangerous zealot. He does not want to reform entitlements. He wants to eliminate them. He wants to eliminate them because he doesn’t believe they are a legitimate function of government. He is a smiling, aw-shucks murderer of opportunity, a creator of dystopias in which he never will have to live. This now is an argument not over what kind of political commonwealth we will have, but rather whether or not we will have one at all, because Paul Ryan does not believe in the most primary institution of that commonwealth: our government. The first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution make a lie out of every speech he’s ever given. He looks at the country and sees its government as something alien that is holding down the individual entrepreneurial genius of 200 million people, and not as their creation, and the vehicle through which that genius can be channelled for the general welfare…
Read more

Saturday Evening Open Thread: Spectacular Flame-Outs

It’s a gift that keeps on giving! Professor Krugman weighs in, from vacation, on Today’s Only Topic:

Galt / Gekko 2012

Paul Ryan for VP — or, as Romney said in the press conference, “the next president of the United States”. I did say Galt/Gekko, not Gekko/Galt…

[A]nyone who believes in Ryan’s carefully cultivated image as a brave, honest policy wonk has been snookered. Mark Thoma reviews selected pieces I’ve written about Ryan; he is, in fact, a big fraud, who doesn’t care at all about fiscal responsibility, and whose policy proposals are sloppy as well as dishonest. Of course, this means that he’ll fit in to the Romney campaign just fine.

As I said, I have no idea how this will play politically. But it does look like a move from weakness, rather than strength; Romney obviously felt he needed a VP who will get people to stop talking about him.

Via Paul Constant, Karl Frisch has a PDF of “All 290 Pages of American Bridges’ Opposition Research File on Paul Ryan.”

Constant also points out that Ryan is a much more professional liar than Romney:

… Something that worries me, though, is Ryan has a disconcerting habit of completely denying the reality of his record, in a very convincing way. If a senior citizen asks Ryan about privatizing Medicare, he will toss a word salad that leaves the senior disoriented and convinced that he’s actually for a stronger Medicare. He will force his interns to read Ayn Rand novels, tell everyone we’re “living in an Ayn Rand novel,” and even credit his entire life of public service to Ayn Rand, and then he will tell a crowded room with a straight face that his love for Ayn Rand is an “urban legend.” Both of these contradictory truths are on the record.

Speaking of little wads of dust and ice showily flaming out, court astrologers would note that tonight is the annual peak of the Perseids:

The Perseid shower has it all. It offers a consistently high rate of meteors, it produces more bright, visible meteors than any other shower, it happens in August when many people are on vacation, and it happens at a time when nighttime temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere are reasonable and the weather is good. What more could you ask for?

You could ask for the 2012 shower, because we have two added advantages. The moon will be in a waning crescent phase. That means on the night of the peak shower, the moon will be at about 25%, so it won’t block viewing. The second advantage is that the shower peaks on a Saturday night, so most people can afford to stay up late or sleep in on Sunday morning.

This year, the shower peaks on the night of August 11/12. You can expect to see somewhere around eighty “shooting stars” per hour between midnight and dawn. Add in the fact that just before dawn, Jupiter and Venus will join in and this promises to be one of the best Perseid showers in memory…


What else is on the agenda for a summer Saturday night?