Saturday Reads: Mitt the Twit, The Churchill Bust, And Much More

President Barack Obama shows Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom a bust of Sir Winston Churchill in the private residence of the White House, July 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Good Morning!

Mitt Romney’s gaffetastic journey began before he even arrived in London when the Telegraph published this now-infamous article based on interviews with some Romney “advisers” who indicated that Mitt would Mitt would “restore ‘Anglo-Saxon’ relations between Britain and America.” The advisers also said that Romney would

seek to reinstate the Churchill bust displayed in the Oval Office by George W. Bush but returned to British diplomats by Mr Obama when he took office in 2009. One said Mr Romney viewed the move as “symbolically important” while the other said it was “just for starters”, adding: “He is naturally more Atlanticist”.

Romney claims he “does not know who these advisers are,” but he apparently agrees with them about the Churchill bust because last night

he told a group of more than 200 supporters in [a] hotel in the heart of London…[that] he is “looking forward” to returning the bust of Winston Churchill to the White House after it was sent back to Great Britain by President Obama.

Mitt the Twit told these supporters [actually wealthy banksters involved in the LIBOR scandal] that he was deeply impressed by the statue of Churchill in London.

The GOP candidate, who suffered a brutal day of press after he suggested that he wasn’t sure the London Olympics would go off without a hitch, spoke highly of the British monuments — singling out the Churchill statue — that he said he got a firsthand look at while stuck in traffic — likely caused by the Olympic Games.

“You live here, you see the sites day in and day out, but for me as I drive past the sculpture of Winston Churchill and see that great sculpture next to Westminster Abbey and Parliament and with him larger than life, enormous heft of that sculpture suggesting the scale of the the grandeur and the greatness of the man, it tugs at the heart strings to remember the kind fo [sic] example that was led by Winston Churchill,” said Romney, speaking in a ballroom at the Mandarin Oriental hotel on the edge of Hyde Park.

Boy, he really laid it on thick, didn’t he? But Mitt the Twit was misinformed, as were the “advisers” that he says he doesn’t know. It turns out that the Churchill bust never left the White House! The White House put up a “fact check” post to clear up the misinformation, although they studiously avoided mentioning Romney.

Lately, there’s been a rumor swirling around about the current location of the bust of Winston Churchill. Some have claimed that President Obama removed the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and sent it back to the British Embassy.

Now, normally we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column. He said President Obama “started his Presidency by returning to the British Embassy the bust of Winston Churchill that had graced the Oval Office.”

This is 100% false. The bust still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.

So where did that story about a bust being removed from the Oval Office come from?

The White House has had a bust of Winston Churchill since the 1960’s. At the start of the Bush administration Prime Minister Blair lent President Bush a bust that matched the one in the White House, which was being worked on at the time and was later returned to the residence. The version lent by Prime Minister Blair was displayed by President Bush until the end of his Presidency. On January 20, 2009 — Inauguration Day — all of the art lent specifically for President Bush’s Oval Office was removed by the curator’s office, as is common practice at the end of every presidency. The original Churchill bust remained on display in the residence. The idea put forward by Charles Krauthammer and others that President Obama returned the Churchill bust or refused to display the bust because of antipathy towards the British is completely false and an urban legend that continues to circulate to this day.

I’m sure this won’t stop Nowhere Man from claiming otherwise, since he appears to delight in lying about just about everything.

Here’s a brief video of some of the reactions to Romney in the London tabloids

I won’t bore you with many more tales of Romney’s European vacation, but I really liked this piece in the Guardian by Jonathan Freedland: Britain is an easy date. So how did Mitt Romney mess up so badly?

For an American politician, Britain is an easy date: just praise the country as a steadfast ally, mention Churchill a couple of times and we’ll roll over. Yet somehow Romney managed to provoke both the prime minister and the capital’s mayor – both fellow conservatives who should regard a Republican nominee as a kindred spirit – into public rebukes. That takes some doing. So what explains how an accomplished politician, with the resilience to have prevailed in a bruising primary campaign, could mess up so badly? The answer says a lot about Romney – and a fair bit about the dire state of today’s Republican party.

In the first category comes the observation that, despite having sought the presidency twice and served as a state governor, Romney is not really a politician at all – not in the Bill Clinton sense of someone who thinks, talks and breathes politically, constantly calculating the likely impact of both words and deeds. Instead Romney speaks and acts like the chief executive he was for so long, whether of private equity firm Bain Capital or the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics of 2002.

As we’ve learned in recent weeks, thanks to the likes of Barclays’ Bob Diamond or G4S’s Nick Buckles, corporate titans, so used to the nodding appreciation of yes men, can lack elementary tact and diplomacy, failing to weigh their words for tone, timing and likely reception. Technically, nothing in what Romney said about London 2012 was especially contentious – if, that is, he were merely the former CEO of the 2002 Games speaking privately to Coe a month ago. But for a man who seeks to be the lead partner in the US-UK alliance, speaking on the day before the Olympic flame was lit, it was a diplomatic disaster.

It’s surely CEO thinking too which has led Romney to refuse to release all his past tax returns, even though President Obama has published his in full. CEOs recoil from such personal transparency, while politicians know they will have to succumb eventually and so had better get it over with. Above all, their exorbitant pay means the elite chief executive class is habitually and unavoidably out of touch with everyone else. It is the Romney of the 1% who could smilingly tell an audience in hard-pressed Detroit that his wife has “a couple of Cadillacs”, beaming again today as his wife referred to the “horses”, plural, she owns (including one competing in the Olympic dressage event, providing a picture-perfect image of elitism for his opponents to feast on).

I thought that was a very insightful assessment.

In other news, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota “being evaluated for depression, ‘gastrointestinal issues'”

This one is for Pat: Katherine Jackson Returns Home, Paris Jackson Tweets About It.

I’m not sure I understand everything that happened, but Katherine Jackson says she needed a rest and so she went to Arizona, getting rid of her cell phone so she wouldn’t be bothered. But there’s something else going on:

While Michael’s will gave Katherine custody of his children and a 20 percent stake in his massive estate, her husband, Joe Jackson, and the eight surviving Jackson siblings were completely cut out. Some of the siblings have reportedly been exploring a move to have the will invalidated by arguing that Michael was in New York on the day that the document was notarized in Los Angeles.

In a video that surfaced earlier this week, Janet Jackson is seen trying to take a cell phone away from Paris, 14, and berating her niece for using her phone to tweet about family business. That video leaked after Janet, Jermaine and Randy Jackson reportedly attempted to persuade Paris and Prince, 15, to leave Katherine’s home on Monday. Both resisted and a short time later, sheriff’s deputies arrived to break up a scuffle between Randy, Jermaine Jackson and TJ.

MTV has more detail on the family fracas via TMZ:

Sources tell TMZ that Randy, Jermaine and Janet Jackson entered the home uninvited and then tried to coerce Michael’s children, Paris, Prince and Blanket, into coming with them to Arizona where their grandmother Katherine has been staying.

Sources say that Paris resisted the intervention and apparently things got violent. Allegedly, Janet slapped Paris and yelled, “You’re a spoiled little bitch!” to which Paris responded with a slap and told Janet, “This is our house. Not the Jackson family house. Get the f–k out!”

TMZ shares that Trent Jackson (Joe Jackson’s nephew who deals with Katherine’s daily affairs) put Randy in a headlock and punched Jermaine in the mouth. Tito Jackson was reportedly trying to get temporary guardianship of Michael’s kids.

And I thought my family was dysfunctional!

There may be a breakthrough in the Eurozone crisis. Reuters:

Stocks rallied on Friday on expectations the European Central Bank will tackle high borrowing costs hitting Spain and Italy, but the euro pared gains on market uncertainty about the specific action to be taken.

The benchmark S&P 500 closed at its highest since early May, climbing further after Bloomberg News said ECB President Mario Draghi will meet with Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann to discuss several measures, including bond purchases, to help the euro zone.

The French and German governments said they are “determined to do everything to protect the euro zone” and its single currency. The joint statement echoed similar remarks by Draghi on Thursday, but in comments on Friday, Germany’s Bundesbank pushed back against Draghi’s pledge.

Tim Geithner will also meet with Schaeuble and Draghi next week in Germany.

The meeting with Schaeuble will take place on the German island of Sylt in the afternoon of July 30, and the session with Draghi will be held that evening in Frankfurt, the Treasury Department said in a statement today.

The Treasury said the meetings will be closed to the press, with a photo opportunity before the Schaeuble meeting. A Treasury official with knowledge of the matter said that Geithner and Schaeuble won’t hold a news conference after the meeting.

The Guardian has a live blog with updates on the ongoing crisis.

Bobby Knight hit the Google top stories list last night, because Neil Reed, the former IU basketball player who was choked by Knight during practice, has died at age 36.

In March 2000, Reed accused Knight of choking him during a practice in 1997. When video of the practice surfaced backing Reed’s claim, Knight, a Hall of Fame coach who was known for his angry outbursts as well as his success, was put on zero-tolerance notice by Dr. Myles Brand, then the university president. That September, Knight was fired after a student said he had grabbed his arm.

Reed transferred to Southern Mississippi shortly after the choking incident and played there in the 1998-99 season.

He is survived by his wife, Kelly, and two daughters.

So sad that he was known for that horrible incident and then died so young. When I first saw Knight’s name on the list, I thought maybe he had died.

Finally, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to hold a fundraiser for Scott Brown in August. Get this:

A spokesman for Bloomberg, Stu Loeser, says the mayor’s top reason for supporting Brown is the senator’s opposition to a proposal backed by the National Rifle Association that would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.

Loeser said Warren’s tough stance on Wall Street regulation was not the basis for the endorsement.

Hahahahahaha!! Somehow I doubt that Warren is a big NRA supporter….

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Thursday Reads: Mitt Romney’s Very Very Bad Day

Good Morning!!

Poor Mitt Romney. Yesterday was not a good day for his campaign. The big story of the day on both sides of the Atlantic was the one about unnamed Romney foreign policy advisers who talked to the The Telegraph and made “racially-tinged” remarks.

The quotes were so extensive and detailed that it’s hard to believe they weren’t legit. Even after Romney disavowed the remarks, the Telegraph stood by their story and noted that they had not received any requests for retractions or corrections from the Romney campaign.

The quotes that I found most disturbing were the ones about the supposed shared “Anglo-Saxon heritage” of England and the U.S.

In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.

And later in the article:

Members of the former Massachusetts governor’s foreign policy advisory team claimed that as president, he would reverse Mr Obama’s priority of repairing strained overseas relationships while not spending so much time maintaining traditional alliances such as Britain and Israel.

“In contrast to President Obama, whose first instinct is to reach out to America’s adversaries, the Governor’s first impulse is to consult and co-ordinate and to move closer to our friends and allies overseas so they can rely on American constancy and strength,” one told the Telegraph.

“Obama is a Left-winger,” said another. “He doesn’t value the Nato alliance as much, he’s very comfortable with American decline and the traditional alliances don’t mean as much to him. He wouldn’t like singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.”

When I first read this, I was flummoxed. “Anglo-Saxon heritage”? What on earth does that mean? It sounded so incongruous, yet it rang a bell with some things I’ve read about Mormon philosophy. So I googled a bit. It seems that Mormons believe they are descended from one of the “12 lost tribes of Israel,” and Brigham Young specifically claimed that the Mormons were descended from the tribe of Ephraim:

We are now gathering the children of Abraham who have come through the loins of Joseph and his sons, more especially through Ephraim, whose children are mixed among all the nations of the earth. The sons of Ephraim are wild and uncultivated, unruly, ungovernable. The spirit in them is turbulent and resolute; they are the Anglo-Saxon race, and they are upon the face of the whole earth bearing the spirit of rule and dictation, to go forth from conquering to conquer. They search wide creation and scan every nook and corner of this earth to find out what is upon and within it. I see a congregation of them before me today. No hardship will discourage these men; they will penetrate the deepest wilds and overcome almost insurmountable difficulties to develop the treasures of the earth, to further their indomitable spirit for adventure. 10:188.

Obviously, I can’t know whether these Mormon beliefs were behind the quotes given to the Telegraph, but it seems possible.

The “foreign newspapers” that the Romney campaign so disdains had a bit of fun yesterday ridiculing the Anglo-Saxon flub.

From the Guardian: Some good Anglo-Saxon values for Mitt Romney. You should read the whole thing, but here’s the concluding paragraph:

In 1066, Britain’s mongrel nation status became complete, having been officially invaded by the Romans, the Angles and Saxons, the Jutes from Denmark, the Vikings and finally by the Normans who, critically, stopped Anglo-Saxon culture in its tracks. Twenty years after the invasion, the Anglo-Saxon nobility were in exile, or consigned to the peasantry, with only 8% of England under their control. The myth of Anglo-Saxon roots that Romney wants to perpetrate denies the enormous contribution to British culture by, essentially, the French. Without the Norman invasion of Anglo-Saxon England, our language and culture would obviously be very different – Mitt Romney would be wise not to cast us all back into the Dark Ages.

Also from the Guardian: Dear Mitt Romney: welcome to Britain! We have a few tips for a pleasant stay. Here’s just one paragraph, but please do read the whole thing.

Britain is, legendarily, a nation of animal-lovers, so you can expect people to be significantly more perturbed by the Dog On The Roof Incident than by any other aspect of your record. On the other hand, people will expect you to be unfamiliar with British cuisine, so your bizarre inability to identify common baked goods will actually be less of a handicap than at home. Just try, if at all possible, not to hurl insults at whoever is providing the baked goods. It’s probably fine to eat the baked goods in a strange fashion.

Juan Cole’s reaction to the Anglo-Saxon mess was more serious.

I really dislike Nazi references. They are for the most part a sign of sloppy thinking, and a form of banal hyperbole. But there just is no other way to characterize invoking the Anglo-Saxon race as a basis for a foreign policy relationship, and openly saying that those of a different race cannot understand the need for such ties. It is a Nazi sentiment.

If you would like some evidence for what I say, consider Adolf Hitler’s own point of view:

For a long time yet to come there will be only two Powers in Europe with which it may be possible for Germany to conclude an alliance. These Powers are Great Britain and Italy.”

Of the two possible allies, Hitler much preferred Britain because he considered it higher on his absurd and pernicious racial hierarchy. Indeed, Hitler held Mussolini a bit at arms length while hoping for a British change of heart, a hope only decisively dashed in September, 1939, when Britain declared war.

Hitler complained that colonialism was in danger of diluting Aryan European strength, weighing down the metropole powers. He contrasted this situation with that of the white United States, blessedly possessing its “own continent.” Indeed, it is, he argued (genocidal crackpot that he was), Britain’s special relationship with the Anglo-Saxon-dominated United states that kept it from being overwhelmed by its subhuman colonials:

“we we too easily forget the Anglo-Saxon world as such. The position of England, if only because of her linguistic and cultural bond with the American Union, can be compared to no other state in Europe.”

Yikes! Remember, I didn’t write that. I’m just quoting Professor Juan Cole.

Yesterday Romney also gave an interview to NBC’s Brian Williams. He avoided questions on several topics, including his unreleased tax returns. Romney assured Williams that he was not going to release any more tax returns. Period. End of story. I think he’s hoping that we’ll all be distracted by his trip abroad, but somehow I don’t think the Obama campaign or the media will stop asking him what he’s hiding.

In addition, as JJ reported last night, Romney told Williams that James Holmes shouldn’t have had all that weaponry that he used to murder 12 people, wound more than 50 others, and turn his apartment into a firebomb, because the weapons were all illegal. Oopsie! Another flub.

As Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates explained: “All the weapons that he possessed, he possessed legally. And all the clips that he possessed, he possessed legally. And all the ammunition that he possessed, he possessed legally.”

Holmes used a handgun, a shotgun and an AR-15 assault rifle in his massacre — all legal, thanks to the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban in 2004, which had previously prohibited some versions of the AR-15. Holmes also had body armor, tear gas grenades, a gas mask and tactical gear. All are legal and widely available online at minimal cost (one website sells tear gas grenades for just $16 a pop).

The only way it would have been illegal for Holmes to have his guns would be if he had been diagnosed as mentally ill or was a convicted felon, but neither was the case. His only record was a speeding ticket.

The drip drip drip continued in the media’s efforts to discover the truth behind Romney’s exit from Bain Capital. Yesterday the AP released a new “Fact check” article that pokes holes in Romney’s claims that he had no involvement with Bain after he left to head up the 2002 Winter Olympics. Quoting Greg Sargent:

The Associated Press reports this morning that Mitt Romney “stayed in regular contact” with his partners at Bain in the months after the 1999 date that he has given as the time he left the company. The story also claims he “continued to oversee his partnership stakes even as he disengaged from the firm, personally signing or approving a series of corporate and legal documents through the spring of 2001.”

The story doesn’t move the ball too much, but it adds to the information that complicates his case that he bears no responsibility for any of the controversial Bain deals that took place during that period — and that he played “no role whatsoever” with the firm.

Finally, Buzzfeed reports that Democrats Plan To Go Nuclear On Romney “You Didn’t Build This” Attack. In a memo sent to the media, the Obama campaign announces they plan to hit Romney hard on multiple fronts. You can read the whole memo at the link.

That was Romney’s very very bad Wednesday. I wonder what he’ll do today? Now what are you reading and blogging about today?