Saturday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’ve been pretty sanguine about the chances of President Obama being reelected, but I have to admit I’m getting to the point that I could start panicking. I can’t understand why Mitt Romney seems to be doing so well in the polls right now. Seriously? Just because he managed to roll over Jim Lehrer and lie his ass off in a debate? I simply cannot understand why anyone would vote for the policies that Romney and Ryan are running on or why there would be such a sudden reversal in the polls based on outright lies and deception. What exactly is going on here?

Nate Silver, who throughout the campaign has been forecasting an Obama victory, is beginning to reverse course. Yesterday afternoon Silver wrote: Obama’s Swing State ‘Firewall’ Has Brittle Foundation.

President Obama’s position has been stronger in state polls than in national surveys on recent days, a streak that extended itself in Thursday’s polling.

Although Mr. Obama got a distinctly poor poll in Florida, which showed him seven points behind there, the rest of Thursday’s state-level data, like a series of polls by Quinnipiac University and Marist College, were reasonably good for him. In surveys of competitive states that were released over the course of the day, he held the lead with 11 polls to Mitt Romney’s 6.

However, four of the six national tracking polls moved toward Mr. Romney, who also led by one point in a national poll published by Monmouth University.

The case that Mr. Romney’s bounce is evaporating after his debate last week in Denver continues to look a bit thin. The tracking polls aren’t perfect by any means. Some are better than others, but they are a below-average group of polls on the whole. But they do provide useful information about the day-to-day trend in the race, and so far they haven’t shown the sort of reversal that Democrats might have hoped for.

What the hell is going on here? Then last night Silver published another piece: Romney Debate Gains Show Staying Power

Mitt Romney continues to surge in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, and Friday may have featured his best set of polls all year.

The best way to track a change in the polls is to look for instances in which the same firm has surveyed the same state (or the national race) multiple times. The FiveThirtyEight forecast model relies on a procedure very much like this to calculate the overall trend in the race.

Fifteen polls were released on Friday that provided a comparison with another survey conducted between the Democratic convention and last week’s debate in Denver. Mr. Romney gained an average of 4.6 percentage points in these surveys.

The scariest thing is that Romney is gaining in the swing states. Silver admits that many of the polls released on Friday were from Republican leaning firms, but still, it’s frightening.

The only really good news for Democrats is that Mr. Obama had built up a large enough cushion that he could withstand a lot of damage without becoming the underdog. The forecast model still has him clinging to narrow leads in Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nevada, states that in some combination would give him 270 electoral votes.

Mr. Obama may also be just slightly underperforming the fundamentals in the election. His approval ratings remain near 50 percent, which would ordinarily predict a narrow re-election victory.

But for the first time, it’s really looking like Romney/Ryan could win. For those of us who believe that there will be a gigantic difference in outcomes–especially for women–if Romney becomes president, that is a terrifying prospect. Some liberals have argued that there is little difference between these two candidates. I simply can’t agree. I think the only hope for democracy is to get Obama reelected and then push him to enact policies that will reduce economic inequality and increase individual rights.

Can Obama turn this around? I have to believe he can, but it will obviously take a dramatic improvement in his performance in next Tuesday’s debate. Both candidates are prepping for the debate over the next three days.

In other news, Think Progress pushes back on Paul Ryan’s lies about the Libya situation during the vice presidential debate Thursday night. Ryan claimed that embassy officials had requested increased security for the Benghazi consulate, but that was not true. The requests were for security at the embassy in Tripoli.

Ryan also claimed there were requests for Marines to protect the ambassador, but that is not true either. TP quotes Foreign Policy:

At Thursday night’s debate, Rep. Paul Ryan seemed to suggest that the requests were for Marines to go to Libya, which was not the case. The requests were to extend the tours of a Mobile Security Detachments [MSD] and the Site Security Team [SST] at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli, which are teams of military personnel, not Marines, who can help protect an embassy and its personnel.

There’s more at the link, but pretty much everything Ryan said about Libya during the debate was a lie. So why was it wrong for Biden to laugh at him again?

At HuffPo, Sam Stein writes that Ryan actually requested more stimulus funds from the Obama administration that has previously been known.

During Thursday night’s vice presidential debate, Vice President Joe Biden attacked Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for criticizing the president’s stimulus act despite having sent two separate requests for stimulus funds for his district.

Biden was wrong. Ryan sent at least four requests.

A Freedom of Information Act request for correspondence between Ryan’s office and the Environmental Protection Agency, filed by The Huffington Post, unearthed two additional instances in which the Wisconsin Republican petitioned for American Recovery Act funds. In addition, there were many other occasions in which the GOP vice presidential nominee asked the EPA for grant money for projects in Wisconsin’s 1st District, which encompasses Ryan’s hometown of Janesville and has a slight Democratic lean. Combined, the letters muddy Ryan’s claim that the stimulus wasn’t helpful and that government spending, more broadly, doesn’t assist small businesses.

Stein notes that the EPA request could be embarrassing for Republicans:

…the letters’ language reveals a congressman who was involved in reviewing the applications and determining that taxpayer money could be useful economically. Moreover, the direct petitioning of the EPA could prove awkward for the Republican ticket, owing to the insistence among many in the GOP that the agency is a hindrance and should be eliminated.

You can see the original letters at the link.

Horrible, ugly troll and Romney surrogate John Sununu has struck again: Sununu Says Obama Imitating Biden Would Fail. From the Bloomberg TV unofficial transcript:

AL HUNT: Welcome back. We are now joined by former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, a top Romney surrogate. John, let me ask you. Last night, the Democrats were ecstatic. They say Joe Biden energized us again. Give me your take on the VP debate.

JOHN SUNUNU: If they’re energized by that grotesque display, all the better for it. I thought Joe Biden was on steroids last night. He looked like the Cheshire cat at times and then he looked like the gawker and the stalker. But worse than that was his substance.

“Grotesque display?” Well, I guess it takes one to know one.

HUNT: John, second presidential debate next Tuesday in Hofstra. Do you expect a different Barack Obama, a different Mitt Romney?

SUNUNU: I expect the same Mitt Romney. Mitt is pretty consistent. But I think you’ll probably see a different Barack Obama. They’re probably showing him tapes of Biden’s disgraceful performance and suggesting to him he ought to get wired like that. So I suspect you’ll see a little bit of Joe Biden not only in Joe Biden, as we saw last night, but a little Joe Biden in Barack Obama.

Well that was insightful.

Sorry I don’t have more positive news. I guess we have to hang on until Tuesday night while the media continues to fawn over Romney and Ryan.

What are you reading and blogging about today?


Wednesday Reads: Running Late?

Good Morning!

Hope this is not too late, I was falling asleep last night as I started to write this morning’s post.

In Greece, this image is a disturbing greeting to Merkel…Greek police fire tear gas as 40,000 vent a nation’s anger during Merkel’s visit

Getty Images 

From high-school students to pensioners, tens of thousands of Greek demonstrators swarmed into Athens yesterday to show the visiting German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, their indignation at their country’s continued austerity measures.

Flouting the government’s ban on protests, an estimated 40,000 people – many carrying posters depicting Ms Merkel as a Nazi – descended on Syntagma Square near the parliament building. Masked youths pelted riot police with rocks as the officers responded with tear gas.

Austerity…it is driving the people to desperation.

Crisis-stricken Spaniards turn to Red Cross for help

Spain’s Red Cross has launched its first campaign specifically designed to help the hundreds of thousands of Spaniards living in poverty as a result of the country’s economic crisis.

The charity already helps two million people in Spain each year, around 80 per cent of whom live below the poverty line, earning a monthly income of €628 (£506) or less.

But in a sign of the harsh times besieging the country, the “Now More Than Ever” appeal aims to widen the charity’s assistance to a further 300,000.

The campaign begins today, on Little Flag Day, traditionally the date when small armies of tin-rattling Red Cross volunteers descend on the streets of Spanish cities in the charity’s most high-profile annual drive to replenish its coffers.

Meanwhile, further economic storm clouds gathered yesterday as the International Monetary Fund provided the latest sign that there will be no let-up in the gloom surrounding the Spanish economy, predicting the country will miss its deficit targets for both 2012 and 2013.

The IMF also forecast that the Spanish economy will shrink by 1.3 per cent in 2013, more than double the government’s prediction of 0.5 per cent. Worldwide, only Greece has a bleaker economic outlook.

This cartoon caught my eye last night as well:

Austerity Rations © Martyn Turner,The Irish Times, Dublin,spain,austerity,rations,pigs,imf,ireland,portugal

Cagle Post » Austerity Rations

More information is coming out of the Obama Administration over Benghazi. State Department: No video protest at the Benghazi consulate

Prior to the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi late in the evening on Sept. 11, there was no protest outside the compound, a senior State Department official confirmed today, contradicting initial administration statements suggesting that the attack was an opportunistic reaction to unrest caused by an anti-Islam video.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, two senior State Department officials gave a detailed accounting of the events that lead to the death of Amb. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The officials said that prior to the massive attack on the Benghazi compound by dozens of militants carrying heavy weaponry, there was no unrest outside the walls of the compound and no protest that anyone inside the compound was aware of.

In fact, Stevens hosted a series of meetings on the compound throughout the day, ending with a meeting with a Turkish diplomat that began at 7:30 in the evening, and all was quiet in the area.

“The ambassador walked guests out at 8:30 or so; there was nobody on the street. Then at 9:40 they saw on the security cameras that there were armed men invading the compound,” a senior State Department official said. “Everything is calm at 8:30 pm, there is nothing unusual. There had been nothing unusual during the day outside.”

I don’t know why the Obama people are mucking this up…it seems to me they are playing into Romney’s hands.

Romney has changed his position once again on abortion. Romney says abortion legislation isn’t part of his agenda | Des Moines Register Staff Blogs

Mitt Romney today said no abortion legislation is part of his agenda, but he would prohibit federally-funded international nonprofits from providing abortions in other countries.

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” the GOP presidential candidate told The Des Moines Register’s editorial board during a meeting today before his campaign rally at a Van Meter farm.

But by executive order, not by legislation, he would reinstate the so-called Mexico City policy that bans U.S. foreign aid dollars from being used to do abortions, he said.

President Barack Obama dropped the policy on his tenth day in office, Romney said.

Romney has said he opposes abortion, except in instances of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is threatened.

The Obama campaign quickly seized on Romney’s abortion comments Tuesday, sending out a news release accusing Romney of contradicting himself because he has said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Obama’s Iowa spokeswoman, Erin Seidler argued that Romney contradicted himself because has said he supports the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions.

However, the Hyde Amendment is already part of current law. And Romney has said he would appoint justices who are not activist judges.

Romney aides rejected the idea that he contradicted himself.

Spokeswoman Andrea Saul said: “Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life and will be a pro-life president.”

All the while, Ann Romney is accusing Obama of showing ‘poor sportsmanship’

Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, equated President Obama’s campaign to a petulant child during an interview Tuesday after being asked about charges from the president’s campaign that her husband had “lied” during last week’s debate.

“I mean, lied about what? This is something he’s been saying all along. This is what he believes.  This is his policy, these are his statements,” Ann Romney said in an interview set to air Wednesday on Fox News. “I mean, lie — it’s sort of like someone that’s, you know, in the sandbox that like lost the game and they’re just going to kick sand in someone’s face and say, ‘you liar.’ I mean, it’s like they lost, and so now they just are going to say, OK, the game, we didn’t like the game. So to me, it’s poor sportsmanship.”

Geez, she is worried about his mental health and then calling Romney out on his lies is “poor sportsmanship.”

I will end with this nugget from Fox’s Crowley: Paul Ryan Is The “Author” Of GOP’s “Entire Intellectual Framework” And “A Borderline Professional Athlete”

Sorry for the sparse links and commentary. I am still in a semi-awake state this morning.


Romney, GOP Appear to be Planning “October Surprise” on Libya . . . Will it Work?

The Romney campaign and the GOP appear to be rolling out an “October Surprise” in the leadup to to tomorrow night’s presidential debate.

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Mitt Romney in which he supposedly proposed “A new course for the Middle East.  Here’s the opening:

Disturbing developments are sweeping across the greater Middle East. In Syria, tens of thousands of innocent people have been slaughtered. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has come to power, and the country’s peace treaty with Israel hangs in the balance. In Libya, our ambassador was murdered in a terrorist attack. U.S. embassies throughout the region have been stormed in violent protests. And in Iran, the ayatollahs continue to move full tilt toward nuclear-weapons capability, all the while promising to annihilate Israel….

Yet amid this upheaval, our country seems to be at the mercy of events rather than shaping them. We’re not moving them in a direction that protects our people or our allies.

What follows is several paragraphs of criticism of President Obama’s policies as Romney interprets them. For example, Romney accuses the President of “allow[ing] or leadership to atrophy,” “misunderstanding our values,” and “thinks that weakness will win favor with our adversaries,” but provides no evidence for these claims.

The only “solutions” Romney puts forward are also vague. He argues that we must develop a “coherent strategy” of supporting our Middle Eastern allies and also “restore our credibility with Iran.” Based on Romney’s previous statements, he seems to be suggesting that somehow if he is President, the Iranians will be more terrified of him than weak, Carter-like Barack Obama.

It means placing no daylight between the United States and Israel. And it means using the full spectrum of our soft power to encourage liberty and opportunity for those who have for too long known only corruption and oppression. The dignity of work and the ability to steer the course of their lives are the best alternatives to extremism.

But this Middle East policy will be undermined unless we restore the three sinews of our influence: our economic strength, our military strength and the strength of our values. That will require a very different set of policies from those President Obama is pursuing.

Yesterday Craig Unger wrote that he had learned from an anonymous source that GOP operatives will

unleash a new two-pronged offensive that will attack Obama as weak on national security, and will be based, in part, on new intelligence information regarding the attacks in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on Sept. 11.

The source, who has firsthand knowledge of private, high-level conversations in the Romney camp that took place in Washington, D.C., last week, said that at various times the GOP strategists referred to their new operation as the Jimmy Carter Strategy or the October Surprise.

He added that they planned to release what they hoped would be “a bombshell” that would make Libya and Obama’s foreign policy a major issue in the campaign. “My understanding is that they have come up with evidence that the Obama administration had positive intelligence that there was going to be a terrorist attack on the intelligence.”

The source described the Republicans as chortling with glee that the Obama administration “definitely had intel” about the attack before it happened. “Intelligence can be graded in different ways,” he added, “and sometimes A and B don’t get connected. But [the Romney campaign] will try to paint it to look like Obama had advance knowledge of the attack and is weak on terrorism.”

“Chortling with glee?” The apparent goal of all this GOP strategizing is to make Barack Obama look like Jimmy Carter circa 1980. Romney and Ryan have both been trying to do this for months, with little effect.

To be honest, I’m having a hard time taking all this too seriously, but today Reps. Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz of the House Committee on Oversight and Government claimed to have information to prove that:

Despite two explosions and dozens of other security threats, U.S. officials in Washington turned down repeated pleas from American diplomats in Libya to increase security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where the U.S. ambassador was killed…

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton [read the full letter here (pdf), Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee said their information came from “individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya.”

Issa, R-Calif. and Chaffetz, R-Utah said the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months before Sept. 11.

The letter listed 13 incidents, but Chaffetz said in an interview there were more than 50. Two of them involved explosive devices: a June 6 blast that blew a hole in the security perimeter. The explosion was described to the committee as “big enough for forty men to go through”; and an April 6 incident where two Libyans who were fired by a security contactor threw a small explosive device over the consulate fence.

“A number of people felt helpless in pushing back” against the decision not to increase security and “were pleading with them to reconsider,” Chaffetz said. He added that frustrated whistleblowers were so upset with the decision that they were anxious to speak with the committee.

Issa and Chaffetz will hold a hearing on the issue next Wednesday, October 10.

Just a side note: Jason Chaffetz is a convert to Mormonism who attend BYU and is a Romney surrogate.  He also spoke at the Republican Convention.

The Wall Street Journal fired another salvo today with another op-ed by Bret Stephens: Benghazi Was Obama’s 3 a.m. Call Here’s the concluding paragraph, which sums up the entire argument pretty well:

The U.S. ignores warnings of a parlous security situation in Benghazi. Nothing happens because nobody is really paying attention, especially in an election year, and because Libya is supposed to be a foreign-policy success. When something does happen, the administration’s concerns for the safety of Americans are subordinated to considerations of Libyan “sovereignty” and the need for “permission.” After the attack the administration blames a video, perhaps because it would be politically inconvenient to note that al Qaeda is far from defeated, and that we are no more popular under Mr. Obama than we were under George W. Bush. Denouncing the video also appeals to the administration’s reflexive habits of blaming America first. Once that story falls apart, it’s time to blame the intel munchkins and move on.

Jake Tapper also helped out by trying to get White House spokesman Jay Carney to comment on the charges from Issa and Chaffetz. Here’s the response:

Carney said that “embassy security is a matter that is in the purview of the State Department,” and noted that “Secretary Clinton instituted an accountability review that is underway as we speak” while the investigation of the attack itself is being conducted by the FBI.

The press secretary said that “from the moment our facility was attacked” the president has been focused on providing security to all diplomatic posts “and bringing the killers to justice.”
About the list of security issues, Carney said it was a “known fact that Libya is in transition” and that in the eastern part of Libya in particular there are militant groups and “a great number of armed individuals and militias.”

So I guess we can expect Romney to attack President Obama on the Libya issue during tomorrow night’s debate, no doubt accompanied by the famous Romney smirk. Obama should be prepared though, since the “October Surprise” has been so clearly spelled out by multiple media sources.

Is there more to it? Will it work? I kind of doubt it, because it’s clear from the polls that Romney has already destroyed his credibility with voters. But I could be wrong.

What do you think?