Last night Dakinikat and I were talking about how the Donald Trump phenomenon is affecting us, and it dawned on me that it reminds me of what it’s like to live in an alcoholic family with an abusive and completely unpredictable father–only in this case it’s the entire country that is trying to deal with the crazy abuser. You never know what is going to happen next, but you know it will be incredibly stressful and emotionally exhausting.
In the case of Trump’s very public behavior, I never know what shocking news will greet me when I get up in the morning. If it’s a day when I write a post it’s even worse because I get overwhelmed trying to figure out what to write.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but it helps me understand why I feel so disoriented and stressed-out as I follow the news each day. I suppose it’s not as bad for people who aren’t paying as close attention to the campaign as we are; but judging by the polls, just about everyone except angry, racist white men is turned off by Trump’s bizarre behavior.
From The Guardian in June: ‘You were born in a Taco Bell’: Trump’s rhetoric fuels school bullies across US.
Tracey Iglehart, a teacher at Rosa Parks elementary school in Berkeley, California, did not expect Donald Trump to show up on the playground….
“They said things like ‘you’ll get deported’, ‘you weren’t born here’ and ‘you were born in a Taco Bell’,” said Iglehart, 49. “They may not know exactly what it means, but they know it’s powerful language.”
Hearing it in Rosa Parks elementary, of all places, came as a shock. “Berkeley is not an area where there are Trump supporters. This is not the land of Trump.”
Yet the spirit of the GOP presidential candidate has surfaced here and, according to one study, in schools across the country.
An online survey of approximately 2,000 K-12 teachers by the Southern Poverty Law Center found toxic political rhetoric invading elementary, middle and high schools, emboldening children to make racist taunts that leave others bewildered and anxious.
“We mapped it out. There was no state or region that jumped out. It was everywhere,” said Maureen Costello, the study’s author. “Marginalized students are feeling very frightened, especially Muslims and Mexicans. Many teachers use the word terrified.” The children who did the taunting were echoing Trump’s rhetoric, she said. “Bad behavior has been normalized. They think it’s OK.”
So my notion of the Trump campaign as a dysfunctional family that is affecting millions of Americans is not so far-fetched.
The latest Trump shock came early yesterday when his campaign announced its latest shake-up. The campaign “manager” will now be pollster Kellyanne Conway and the “chairman/CEO” of the campaign will now be Steve Bannon, editor of the far right white supremacist website Breitbart. In essence, there has been a hostile takeover of the Republican Party by the worst lowlifes in the right-wing fever swamp. I wonder how Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell feel about that?
Joshua Green at Bloomberg: Steve Bannon’s Plan to Free Donald Trump and Save His Campaign.
“I am who I am,” Donald Trump declared, shortly after the New York Times ran a story depicting chaos in his presidential campaign. “I don’t want to change.” He wasn’t lying. The next day, on Aug. 17, Trump shoved aside his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and installed Steve Bannon—ex-Naval officer, ex-Goldman Sachs banker, ex-Sarah Palin filmmaker. Until Trump called, he was executive chairman of Breitbart News, the avatar of the so-called alt-right: the nationalist, racially paranoid splinter group of anti-establishment conservatives who have rallied to Trump’s banner.
Since June, Manafort has tried fruitlessly to mold Trump into someone palatable to establishment Republicans and the swing voters he’ll need to win over if he’s to have any chance of beating Hillary Clinton. Bannon, who becomes chief executive of the Trump campaign, represents a sharp turn in the opposite direction—a fireball hurtling toward the 2016 presidential election. (In announcing the hiring, the Trump campaign quoted Bloomberg Businessweek’s description of Bannon from a profile last fall as “the most dangerous political operative in America.”) Along with campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, Bannon will encourage Trump to cast aside political niceties and aggressively go with his gut. “I’ve known Steve for a long time—he is an extraordinary guy, an extraordinary talent, and he, like me, truly loves our country,” Trump said in a statement to Businessweek.
Trump’s own diagnosis of his campaign’s shortcomings led to this unusual prescription—which is the diametric opposite of what most Republicans have been counseling for their embattled nominee. “The campaign has been too lethargic, too reactive,” says a senior Trump official. “They wanted to bring in someone who understood new media, understood digital. It’s not going to be a traditional campaign.” Trump was frustrated by Manafort’s efforts to contain him and angry about his plummeting poll numbers. With Bannon in the fold, the source adds, Trump will feel free to unleash his inner Trump: “It’s very simple. This is a change election. He needs to position himself as anti-establishment, the candidate of change, and the candidate who’s anti-Washington.”The shake-up is an ominous development for Republican elected officials alarmed at Trump’s collapse and the effect he could have on down-ballot races across the country. In recent years, Breitbart News has bedeviled Republican leaders, helping to drive out former House Speaker John Boehner and, more recently, making life difficult for his successor, Paul Ryan. Last fall, at Bannon’s insistence, Breitbart reporters visited Ryan’s Wisconsin home (which is surrounded by a wall) and published a story shaming him for not endorsing Trump’s proposal to erect a wall along the Mexico border.
Bannon, who’s as eager to attack Republicans as Democrats, is unlikely to worry much about the plight of mainstream GOP incumbents. At a New Year’s party at his Capitol Hill home last year, Bannon gave guests silver flasks stamped with his personal motto: “Honey badger don’t give a shit.”
The piece ends with this choice quote from Stuart Stevens, who managed Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign:
“This is the bunker scene in Downfall, only the Trump crowd won’t tell Hitler the truth. It’s utter madness,” says Stuart Stevens, who ran Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. “Trump is a nut, and he likes to surround himself with nuts. It’s a disaster for the Republican Party.”
Read the whole thing at the Bloomberg link.
At Vanity Fair, Ken Stern has a longer article about Bannon and Trump, Exclusive: Stephen Bannon, Trump’s New CEO, Hints at His Master Plan. It’s well worth the read.
The night before the big shake-up, Trump gave a “law and order” speech in West Bend, Wisconsin, a lily-white town about 40 miles north of Milwaukee, where protests have been raging after police shot and killed a black man whom they claim had a gun. In the speech, Trump pretended to “reach out” to African Americans, while advocating for more and harsher policing in poor urban areas. During the speech, Trump repeatedly said he was in Milwaukee. It was insulting to black people and to anyone who cares about inequality.
While he was in Wisconsin, Trump gave an interview to The La Cross Tribune. At Huffington Post, Julia Craven called attention to one very “tone deaf” comment in the interview:
Trump, whose campaign slogan is “Make America Great Again!” said he views the 1980s as the time when things were good for the nation, though he also hearkened back to the late 1700s and early 1800s.
“The industrial revolution was certainly — in terms of economically — that was when we started to grow,” Trump said. “I liked the Ronald Reagan years. I thought the country had a wonderful, strong image.”
Craven notes that the Industrial Revolution was built on the backs of slaves and during the Reagan era, black neighborhoods were inundated with crack and “the war on drugs drove the incarceration rate for black people through the roof.”
I’m almost beginning to buy into Peter Daou’s theory that Trump is campaigning not for the presidency but for leadership of a white nationalist movement. Here’s Daou’s latest at Blue Nation Review: We’re Witnessing History: The Extreme Right Just Seized Control of the GOP. Please go read the whole thing if you haven’t already.
Now here’s something to help get the bad Trump taste out of our mouths: Wired Endorses Optimism.
Wired has never been neutral. For nearly a quarter of a century, this organization has championed a specific way of thinking about tomorrow. If it’s true, as the writer William Gibson once had it, that the future is already here, just unevenly distributed, then our task has been to locate the places where various futures break through to our present and identify which one we hope for….
We value freedom: open systems, open markets, free people, free information, free inquiry. We’ve become even more dedicated to scientific rigor, good data, and evidence-driven thinking. And we’ve never lost our optimism.
…for all of its opinions and enthusiasms, WIRED has never made a practice of endorsing candidates for president of the United States. Through five election cycles we’ve written about politics and politicians and held them up against our ideals. But we’ve avoided telling you, our readers, who WIRED viewed as the best choice.
Today we will. WIRED sees only one person running for president who can do the job: Hillary Clinton.
Why have the magazine’s editors made this decision?
Right now we see two possible futures welling up in the present. In one, society’s every decision is dominated by scarcity. Except for a few oligarchs, nobody has enough of anything. In that future, we build literal and figurative walls to keep out those who hope to acquire our stuff, while through guile or violence we try to acquire theirs.
In the other future, the one WIRED is rooting for, new rounds of innovation allow people to do more with less work—in a way that translates into abundance, broadly enjoyed. Governments and markets and entrepreneurs create the conditions that allow us to take effective collective action against climate change. The flashlight beam of science keeps turning up cool stuff in the corners of the universe. The grand social experiments of the 20th and early 21st centuries—the mass entry of women into the workforce, civil rights, LGBTQ rights—continue and give way to new ones that are just as necessary and unsettling and empowering to people who got left out of previous rounds. And the sustainably manufactured, genetically modified fake meat tastes really good too.
Our sights might not be perfectly aligned, but it’s pretty clear Hillary Clinton has her eye on a similar trajectory. She intends to uphold the Paris Agreement on climate change and reduce carbon emissions by up to 30 percent in 2025. She hopes to produce enough renewable energy to power every American home by the end of her first term. She wants to increase the budgets of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, two major drivers of research and innovation via government funding. And she wants to do the same for Darpa, the defense research agency—without which, let’s face it, WIRED probably wouldn’t exist, because no one would have invented the things we cover.
Clinton also has ideas that clear away stumbling blocks for entrepreneurs and strivers. She proposes linking entrepreneurship to forgiveness of student loans, as a way to help young people start businesses. Clinton favors net neutrality—giving every packet of data on the Internet the same priority, regardless of whether they originate from a media corporation or from you and me. She has proposed easier paths to legal immigration for people with science, technology, and engineering degrees. And she has spent my entire adult life trying to work out how to give the maximum number of Americans access to health care; she will continue to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, which among other things has helped people walk away from crappy, dead-end jobs by alleviating the fear that they’ll lose their insurance.
I agree that Hillary is an optimist and she has the competence and intelligence to turn her ideas into real change. I think most Americans will also choose optimism and love over negativity and hate in November.
What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a tremendous Thursday!
Thursday Reads: Villager Gossip, A Priceless Art Discovery, The Troubled NFL, And The Psychopathic One PercentPosted: November 7, 2013 | |
All the villagers are talking about the gossipy new book about the 2012 presidential campaign by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, Double Down. I can’t bring myself to read it, but Pat J. said she is reading it, so maybe she can give us more detail on the story of Romney adviser Stuart Stevens vomiting backstage after Clint Eastwood’s embarrassing performance at the Republican National Convention.
Lawrence O’Donnell had Heilemann on his MSNBC show last night. O’Donnell “loved” book and was especially joyful about the anecdote about Stevens. I have to admit, it’s pretty funny. The Washington Post has a lengthy review of the book with some more interesting bits.
On Chris Christie:
According to the authors, Romney and his team were shaken by what they discovered about Christie during “Project Goldfish,” as the hush-hush veep search process was known. His “disturbing” research file is littered with “garish controversies,” the authors write: a Justice Department investigation into his free-spending ways as U.S. attorney, his habit of steering government contracts to friends and political allies, a defamation lawsuit that emerged during a 1994 run for local office, a politically problematic lobbying career that included work on behalf of a financial firm that employed Bernie Madoff. And that’s not to mention the Romney team’s anxiety about the governor’s girth.
For Christie, who is coasting to reelection on Tuesday and already laying behind-the-scenes groundwork for a 2016 presidential bid, the book’s revelations are a Drudge-ready public relations nightmare that will send his advisers scrambling to explain awkward aspects of his record and his personal life just as he is stepping onto the national stage.
Mitt Romney is apparently obsessed with fat people, and even criticized men on his staff if they went out with women that Romney deemed to be too “fat.” You can just imagine what he thought of Chris Christie. From an earlier WaPo article:
Romney initially crossed Christie off his short list. The governor’s vetting file was incomplete, and Romney had been bothered by Christie’s propensity to show up late at campaign events and by his lack of physical fitness, the book says.
“Romney marveled at Christie’s girth, his difficulties in making his way down the narrow aisle of the campaign bus,” the authors write. “Watching a video of Christie without his suit jacket on, Romney cackled to his aides, ‘Guys! Look at that!’”
Corporate media and talking heads have been busy trying to interpret Tuesday’s election results as helpful for Republicans. Supposedly the only reason Terry McAuliffe beat Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia and Chris Christie is now on the fast track to the White House–sorry Hillary.
Ed Kilgore at Political Animal: Tell Me Again Who Won in Virginia?
Before we get into any more election analysis, I have to make a preliminary objection to what we are hearing this morning about the Virginia governor’s race. Yes, we all play the expectations game, and Terry McAuliffe only won by two-and-a-half percent, which is less than most of the late polls anticipated. But to read this morning’s spin, you’d think he (and the Democratic Party) actually lost. The results are being widely read exactly as Ken Cuccinelli wanted them to be read: a negative “referendum on Obamacare.” Politico’s James Hohmann, in a piece entitled “Why Terry McAuliffe barely won,” draws bright red arrows pointing to an exit poll showing that 53% of voters said they opposed Obamacare. That’s entirely in line with about three years of polling about the Affordable Care Act, and doesn’t indicate any last minute “surge” against the law.
Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast: The Wrong Election Takeaways From Christie’s Win, Virginia, and More:
The conventional wisdom on New Jersey: Huge Chris Christie win sets him up to steamroll his way to the Republican nomination in 2016, proving that a more mainstream conservative can win in a blue state. The conventional wisdom on Virginia: Ken Cuccinelli’s stinging loss in a purple state in an off-off-year election against Terry McAuliffe, a flawed Democratic candidate, shows not only that he was too extreme but also that Virginia is inching its way into the Democratic column. As the Times put it in its headline, “McAuliffe Win Points to Virginia Changes.”
Well, God invented conventional wisdom so people like me could beat it down. In New Jersey, Christie doesn’t emerge from his victory nearly as strong as he appears to. And the Virginia outcome isn’t really very strong for Democrats, especially down the ballot. No, I’m not buying into the right-wing spin that Cuccinelli’s narrow margin of defeat really represents some kind of loss for Obamacare. It does not.
Read the rest at the link.
Peter Beinart at The Daily Beast: Chris Christie Is No George W. Bush, and 2016 Is Definitely Not 2000:
In the wake of Chris Christie’s reelection romp on Tuesday, the press is filled withcomparisons between the New Jersey governor and a pre-presidency George W. Bush. They’re both Republican governors who appear moderate and bipartisan compared to their party’s zealots in Washington. They’re both beloved by big donors. Each has made inroads among the Democratic-leaning constituencies with whom Republicans must do better. But there’s a problem with the analogy. It’s unlikely Christie can “win” the presidency by running as a second Bush, in part [because] America still remembers the first one.
Lots more at the link.
In other news…
Did you hear about the priceless art works stolen by the Nazis that were found in a dirty, run-down apartment in Munich, Germany? From NPR:
The revelation Monday that more than 1,000 paintings and prints seized by the Nazis during World War II were found in a Munich apartment has set off excitement in the art world and spurred anger among Jewish groups that German officials didn’t publicize the discovery when it was first made.
With a potential value of $1.35 billion, the trove of art contains previously unknown works by Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall; other artists represented include Pablo Picasso, Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
The stash of art was reported by Germany’s Focus magazine Monday, under the headline “The Nazi Treasure” (Der Nazi-Schatz). Tax officials discovered the cache when they visited the cluttered Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt, a descendant of a man who was an official in wartime Germany.
Of nearly 1,400 oil paintings, prints and other works, 1,285 had been stacked in a drawer, unframed. They include work by German expressionists such as Franz Marc and Max Beckmann, in addition to a previously unknown self-portrait by Otto Dix. The trove also includes Albrecht Dürer and Canaletto, who worked in earlier centuries — a detail that could make the collection’s origins even more difficult to explain.
The paintings were found in 2011, but the stunning and unprecedented discovery was just announced this week. A couple more links:
Max Fisher at WaPo: Why Nazi-seized art is only now resurfacing – and how it will change the art world.
This will be a story to watch for anyone who is interested in fine art. We still don’t know for sure which paintings were found.
The NFL is back in the news, and, again, it’s not in a good way. It’s a story of racially charged bullying and hazing at the Miami Dolphins. Reportedly, a veteran player, Richie Incognito was told by someone at the team to “toughen up” rookie Jonathan Martin. Even the GM may have been involved. Incognito, who is white, chose to do so by leaving messages containing racial slurs on Martin’s voicemail. Martin, who is African American, ended up in the hospital for emotional distress and eventually left the team. If you can believe it, other Dolphins players and veterans of the team are supporting Incognito.
Here are a couple of interesting reactions to the story.
Valerie Strauss at the WaPo: If a 6’5, 312-pound Miami Dolphin can be bullied…
Jonathan Martin, the 6-foot-5-inch, 312-pound Miami Dolphin offensive lineman who left the NFL team because he was being bullied by at least one other player, has done a favor for school kids everywhere.
How can such a big guy get bullied? Because bullying behavior isn’t about physical intimidation. It’s about mind control and creating fear — and no one, not even very large professional athletes — are immune. That’s a useful message for kids and adults working to create safe climates at their schools.
So is the way Martin ultimately handled his problem. After many months of being a victim, he got up, walked away and later accused the Dolphins of creating and allowing an unsafe work environment. He is forcing the powers that be to take a look at the problem. As my Post colleague Sally Jenkins wrote in this column:
Turns out the real tough guy is Martin, whose decision to rebel against a vicious culture in the Dolphins’ locker room has triggered a league-level investigation of [suspended Dolphin Richie] Incognito, and, if reports are true, needs to extend to other veteran players and management as well.
In schools, the programs that work best in combating bullying are those that teach kids that they can’t stand by and watch bullies go after other students. Bystanders have to get help — and everybody in the school, adults included — have to be on the same page. That didn’t happen in Miami.
Veteran WaPo sportswriter Tom Boswell: Richie Incognito bullying allegations are the latest in long list of NFL problems.
Where are we? Where is pro football? The NFL doesn’t have a PR problem. It has a reality problem. And it may be a grave one. Every month — and it seems every few days — the NFL is inundated by new, barely suspected revelations. What has the NFL become? Or is this what it has been for some time? Is the truth coming out of the shadows?
The list is stunning. Its cumulative effect, not any one particular item, is the true confidence-shaking shock.
The NFL is now the league of murder charges against Aaron Hernandez — gang execution style. The NFL is the league of murder, then suicide, with Jovan Belcher killing his girlfriend and then shooting himself in the head in a parking lot by his stadium as his coach and general manager watched….
The NFL is the league where future Hall of Famer Junior Seau, barely retired, shot himself in the heart so his brain could be studied by science to help prove that chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a core part of football, with risk of brain damage down to the smallest kids who play it….
The NFL is the league of thug bullies such as suspended Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, who allegedly extorted money, texted racist insults and made death threats to a younger teammate. It’s the league of $15,000 stripper parties in Las Vegas, paid for by intimidated, hazed rookies who don’t make the trip but pay the check even if it busts them.
The article is well worth a read even if you don’t follow sports.
We’ve been talking a lot lately about the studies that show that rich people are more narcissistic, less empathetic, more likely to be dishonest, rude, and thoughtless than other people. Here a long read at Alternet about the top 1% as functioning psychopaths: Inside the Psyche of the 1% — Many Actually Believe Their Ideology of Greed Makes for a Better World.
Do the rich and super-rich tend to be psychopaths, devoid of guilt or shame? Are the 1% lacking in compassion? Does their endless accumulation of possessions actually bring them little to no happiness? To each of these, the answer is “yes”—but a very qualified “yes” with lots of subtleties. Even more important is what these issues suggest for building a society which does not ravage the last remnants of wilderness and rush headlong into a climate change tipping point.
Check out the article to get all the details.
Those are my offerings for today; now what are you reading and blogging about? Please share your links in the comment thread.
The reviews are in: President Obama clearly won the third presidential debate. Now we’ll see if that is reflected in the polls. I’m going to give you a few quick links with reactions to the debate. I’m writing this at 11:30 Monday, so I know there will be lots more in the morning.
Washington Post: Obama keeps Romney on his heels in last debate
President Obama seemed to use the authority of his office to put Republican challenger Mitt Romney on his heels in their final presidential debate Monday night, telling Romney he didn’t understand foreign-policy problems as well as he does.
That idea underlay some of the night’s harshest lines from Obama. He scoffed at Romney’s assertion that Russia remained the country’s chief geopolitical foe: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”
And, when Romney asserted that the United States had fewer naval ships than decades ago, Obama retorted that his opponent didn’t understand the modern navy. There were fewer ships, he said, but also fewer “horses and bayonets.”
“We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on ‘em,” Obama said. ” “The question is not a game of battleship, where we’re counting ships.”
Romney: “Hey, no fair! You sank my battleship!”
Chris Cillizza names the winners and losers in the debate. According to Cillizza, Barack Obama and Bob Shieffer were winners. Mitt Romney was a loser.
The New York Times: Obama and Romney Bristle from Start
Talking Points Memo: In Foreign Policy Debate, Obama Uses Romney’s Past Positions Against Him
Throughout Monday night’s presidential debate on foreign policy, President Obama used past positions that Mitt Romney has taken over the course of the campaign to depict him as the wrong candidate to run U.S. foreign policy.
Obama used the tactic both to defend his own initiatives — particularly his Libya policy — and to characterize Romney as an untrained foreign policy hand who has been wobbly and inconsistent.
“I know you haven’t been in a position to execute foreign policy,” Obama said, in summarizing his theme of attack, “but every time you have offered an opinion, you have been wrong.”
Specifics at the link.
The Daily Beast reviewed Michelle Obama’s and Ann Romney’s dresses.
Perhaps it’s a symbol of the Recession: Michelle Obama didn’t wear a brand new designer dress. She didn’t wear a blinding pink suit either. No, at the fourth Presidential debate in Florida on Monday night, she recycled a dress.
Michelle Obama appeared in the crowd in the same black and grey Thom Browne dress that she had worn on the second night of the Democratic National Convention in early September. It was an interesting choice for debate night — a night when the candidates’ wives traditionally have chosen to stand out from the crowd in bright designs….
Ann Romney, on the other hand, wore a silk green top and cream and green silk skirt to the debate on Monday. Typically, it was not as fashion-forward as Obama’s choice, but it was adventurous for her, and it demonstrated the ease and facility with which she is now styled on the trail; a creative assembly of different items to acheive a polished look. But it was also throwback: a bell skirt and helmet of blonde hair defiantly recalled the look of a 1950s housewife. She has finally grown more confident with her style: she’s been told she has to dress like a First Lady, and maybe, just maybe, does she finally look the part.
In other news,
Efraim Halevy, a former Mossad chief discussed Iran and Mitt Romney with Laura Rozen at AL Monitor. He’s not a fan of the Mittster. Here’s a quote:
Obama has placed emphasis on negotiations. In this current election for the US presidency, his hands are tied. He cannot proceed, because he cannot appear soft on Israel’s security.
Negotiating with Iran is perceived as a sign of beginning to forsake Israel. That is where I think the basic difference is between Romney and Obama. What Romney is doing is mortally destroying any chance of a resolution without war. Therefore when [he recently] said, he doesn’t think there should be a war with Iran, this does not ring true. It is not consistent with other things he has said. […]
Obama does think there is still room for negotiations. It’s a very courageous thing to say in this atmosphere.
In the end, this is what I think: Making foreign policy on Iran a serious issue in the US elections — what Romney has done, in itself — is a heavy blow to the ultimate interests of the United States and Israel.
It is not as if, if he wins the election, and gets into the White House, he can back up. The Iranians are listening attentively to what he says. When he says, he would arm the opposition in Iran. They understand.
From the Boston Phoenix, a really creepy story about Romney’s sense of entitlement: Gold Star Mother: Romney Skipped Funeral, Left “Bullying” Messages.
Remember when Ann Romney claimed on The View that Mitt had attended every funeral of a soldier from Massachusetts who lost his or her life in Iraq or Afghanistan? Not according ot one grieving mother, Stephany Kern. She says that Romney, like other politicians called and left messages for her, but she was too broken up to respond. Kerry and Kennedy contacted other family members to find out when would be a good time to try again. But Romney called repeatedly, leaving insensitive messages indicating that he was insulted by the lack of a return call.
“I can’t believe you haven’t returned my call,” Romney said on one of the voice mail messages, according to Stephany Kern, speaking at her Westerly, Rhode Island home this past Saturday. “Here I am making a second call; I haven’t heard from you.” ….
Kern’s son, Marine Lance Corporal Nickolas Schiavoni, was killed by an IED explosion in Iraq on November 15, 2005. He was born and lived his entire life in the Haverhill, Massachusetts, area, and his funeral took place in Haverhill on November 26. His grandfather, David Swartz — Kern’s father — was a well-known attorney, prosecutor, and city councilor in that city.
Romney didn’t go to Schiavoni’s wake or funeral.
Mrs. Kern says that many officials, including Romney and Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, left messages for her the day after her son died. She felt unable to speak to anyone in those initial days. “I didn’t listen to any of the calls,” she says.
Only Romney, she says, complained in a second message that she had not called back.
“He was completely unable to understand that a mom was not going to return his phone call, and that it wasn’t a priority for me,” she says. “I wasn’t being disrespectful. I was being a mom who was greeting the casket of her son coming home from war.”
And Romney called a third time, even more annoyed:
Steve Kern, who has been married to Stephany Kern since prior to Schiavoni enlisting in 2002, says that he heard Romney’s second and third messages.
He recalls Romney saying in one: “I’m a busy man.” He describes Romney’s tone as “disrespectful,” “antagonistic,” and “absolutely inappropriate to use on a Gold Star mother.”
Some weeks later, Kern says, someone from Romney’s office called her to say that Romney intended to visit Sciavoni’s gravesite. Kern asked that he not do so if he intended to have his photograph taken there; she does not know whether Romney visited or not.
The Kerns didn’t save the answering machine tapes, but that sure sounds like Mitt Romney.
This is interesting. Although the media constantly reports that the military supports Romney, Open Secrets reports that in terms of donations: Armed Forces Show Overwhelming Support for Obama
Update, Oct. 21: Fundraising numbers for the month of September show Obama continuing to dominate when it comes to contributions from the military. The new data, which came in after the story below was published Oct. 15, show he raised $142,197, just a shade less than he collected in August, his strongest month with this set of donors. Romney brought in $111,015 for his best month ever with military donors, but that was still 22 percent less than Obama received.
The new numbers bring Obama’s total from military donors to $678,611, and Romney’s to $398,450.
The Italian judiciary system might be even worse than ours. Check this out: Italian experts convicted of manslaughter over deadly 2009 quake
Defying assertions that earthquakes cannot be predicted, an Italian court convicted seven scientists and experts of manslaughter Monday for failing to adequately warn residents before a temblor struck central Italy in 2009 and killed more than 300 people.
The court in L’Aquila also sentenced the defendants to six years each in prison. All are members of the national Great Risks Commission, and several are prominent scientists or geological and disaster experts.
Scientists had decried the trial as ridiculous, contending that science has no reliable way of predicting earthquakes. So news of the verdict shook the tightknit community of earthquake experts worldwide.
“It’s a sad day for science,” said seismologist Susan Hough, of the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s unsettling.” That fellow seismic experts in Italy were singled out in the case “hits you in the gut,” Hough added.
The war on science is international, apparently.
That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about today?
Yesterday, on the way from Los Angeles to Denver aboard his private campaign plane, Mitt Romney commiserated with reporters about the way his presidential run is going.
Recently fellow Republicans have been critical of him for spending so much time fund-raising when he should be campaigning in swing states. Yesterday, Romney explained to reporters on his campaign plane why he has had to spend so much time raising money–it’s all President Obama’s fault. According to NBC News, Romney
addressed his languid public campaign schedule of late, which has focused largely on fundraising and debate prep, by again blaming the president for disregarding federal campaign matching funds in 2008 and again this presidential cycle, forcing him to do the same.
“He’s doing it again this time, so to be competitive it means a lot more fundraising than I think I would like,” Romney said. “I’d far rather be spending my time out in the key swing states campaigning, door-to-door if necessary, but in rallies and various meetings, but fundraising is a part of politics when you’re opponent decides not to live by the federal spending limits.”
See, if poor Mitt had had his druthers, he’d have taken federal matching funds instead of raising unlimited campaign money from millionaires and billionaires. But that mean old Barack Obama forced him to turn to mega-rich donors. It wasn’t what Mitt really wanted.
Frankly, I think Romney must be so anxious about the situation he’s in that he is getting slightly delusional. He’s clearly in deep denial about his standing against Obama in the polls. He told Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes that his campaign “doesn’t need a turnaround” because “We’ve got a campaign which is tied with an incumbent President to the United States.”
Really? When you’re behind by about 3 points nationally and trailing in every swing state, I don’t call that tied.
Back to the pity party. Romney told reporters that
“I don’t pay a lot of attention to the day-to-day polls. They change a great deal,” Romney said. “I know in the coming six weeks they’re very unlikely to remain where they are today. I’ll either go up or I’ll go down. It’s unlikely that we’ll just stay the same.”
But when he was asked why he’s behind in swing states, Romney again blamed President Obama. The New York Times Caucus Blog has details on Romney’s complaints about the Obama campaign’s ads:
“I think that the president’s campaign has focused its advertising in many cases on very inaccurate portrayals of my positions,” he said. “They’ve been very aggressive in their attacks both on a personal basis and on a policy basis. I think as time goes on, people will realize that those attacks are not accurate and we’ll be able to have a choice which is based upon each other’s accurate views for the future of country” ….
“When he says I was in favor of liquidating the automobile industry, nothing could be further from the truth,” Mr. Romney said. “My plan was to rebuild the auto industry and take it through bankruptcy so that could happen, and by the way he doesn’t mention he took them through bankruptcy.”
Mr. Romney did oppose the auto industry bailout, instead lobbying for a process of “managed bankruptcy,” which he said would have allowed the car companies to restructure and emerge stronger than before. Though Mr. Obama did ultimately take General Motors and Chrysler through managed bankruptcies, the president argues that the process would not have been possible without his decision to inject the companies with billions in taxpayer money — an intervention Mr. Romney opposed.
Romney also expressed dismay that the Obama campaign has claimed that he is against abortion “even in cases of rape and incest and the life of the mother….That’s wrong.” It’s true that Romney has said he believes that rape and incest victims and mothers whose physical health is threatened should be excepted from abortion bans; but at the same time he chose Paul Ryan–who doesn’t support any exceptions–as his running mate and before that he told Mike Huckabee that he supports state constitutional amendments to establish “personhood” for fertilized eggs. So why should voters trust him?
On his tax plan, according to The National Journal, Romney
accused his rival of inaccurately saying he favors lowering taxes on the wealthy while raising them on middle-income people. He was apparently referring to Democrats’ use of a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center that found Romney’s tax plan would require households with incomes under $200,000 to pay higher taxes, on average, to help finance tax cuts for the rich. Romney has dismissed the study’s assumptions as “garbage.”
Back to the Caucus Blog:
Standing in the back of his plane, and pressed by reporters to explain his lagging position in many polls, Mr. Romney — whose campaign recently said that they would not allow fact-checkers to dictate their campaign — found himself calling for fact-checkers.
“I understand that politics is politics but in the past, when you’ve had an ad which has been roundly pointed out to be wrong, you take it out and you correct it and you put something back on,” Mr. Romney said.
“He keeps running these things even though he knows they’re wrong and saying them in rallies even though he knows they’re wrong.”
Talk about projection. I’d even call it delusional projection. This is from the guy whose top pollster Neil Newhouse famously said “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” In fact, (via Americablog) a recent study by
the self-proclaimed non-partisan “Center for Media and Public Affairs” – which has been accused of conservative ties in the past – finds that media fact-checkers found Mitt Romney and the GOP lied twice as much as Democrats. It’s some coincidence that the study came out just a few weeks after the Republican party collectively decided that it’s time to start tearing down fact-checkers.
Note that (see above) in the midst of his many complaints, Romney even indulged in the somewhat delusional fantasy that voters would somehow suddenly wake up and recognize President Obama’s despicable treachery:
I think as time goes on, people will realize that those attacks are not accurate and we’ll be able to have a choice which is based upon each other’s accurate views for the future of country.
It’s difficult to see how that could happen as long as Romney himself keeps repeating lies about President Obama and shifting his own positions at the drop of a hat. But Romney apparently believes the voters’ epiphany will come during the debates, when he will magically be able to express himself clearly at last. From The National Journal:
“I think the president will not be able to continue to mischaracterize my pathway, and so I’ll continue to describe mine, he will describe his, and people will make a choice,” he said. “That’s the great thing about democracy. I’m not going to try to fool people into thinking he believes things he doesn’t. He’s trying to fool people into thinking that I think things that I don’t. And that ends at the debates.”
But he said that he couldn’t guarantee a debate win. “I can’t tell you winning and losing,” he said. “I mean, he’s president of the United States, he’s a very effective speaker. I hope I’ll be able to describe my positions in a way that is accurate and the people will make a choice as to which path they want to choose. I happen to believe that if we each do our job relatively well, I will be able to convince people that our pathway forward will be more prosperous and more secure and more confident if we choose the path I describe.”
I really think Mitt Romney is so anxious and stressed that he’s losing it–he seems completely unaware of how his own behavior looks to others. He has begun deluding himself in order to hide his failures from himself. I don’t think he has ever faced such a difficult challenge in his life until now. He has always been the guy on top–the one who could get away with anything.
In high school, Romney could pin down a classmate and cut his hair without being charged with assault; he could lead an elderly professor into a glass door an not be disciplined, he could make fun of a classmate’s speech patterns and get away with it. He could even pose as a highway patrolman and stop a car on the highway as a “prank” with no repercussions whatsoever. As a young man, his father helped him obtain four draft deferrals so he could be protected from being sent to Vietnam like so many others his age. As an adult, he was a CEO whose every order must be obeyed and whose whims were catered to.
Finally at age 65, Romney is facing a real test of character, and I don’t think he’s up to it. He’s self-destructing in a very public way. It will be very interesting to watch his behavior in the debates and his other appearances during the last few weeks of the campaign.
After watching Mitt Romney’s undignified behavior in horror yesterday morning, and thinking about it for much of the day, I finally came to the conclusion that Romney is a spoiled teenager in an adult man’s body.
This man has been cosseted and catered to throughout his life. Everything has been handed to him on a silver platter–early on because of his father’s money, power, and influence and later because he was a wealthy and powerful CEO who could shout orders and expect instant obedience.
It has been evident to me for a long time that Romney is still the same bully who rounded up a group of classmates to hold down a younger student whose clothing and hair had drawn Romney’s disapproval and cut his long hair off. His wife and children have frequently talked about how he still loves to play “practical jokes” and “pranks” on family and friends. I honestly don’t think Romney has matured emotionally since those high school days.
As far as we know, Romney has never faced a serious life problem except for a car accident he got into in France while he was on his Mormon mission there. Yes, his wife Ann has had serious health problems, but I’m not sure Mitt has enough empathy for that to affect him personally.
In my opinion one of the most important ways people grow emotionally is by going through serious problems. But even after that accident, Romney didn’t have to do much. His father sent people over to handle the situation and bring Mitt back home. Although a woman was killed in the accident, and Romney was driving, he apparently never even contacted the woman’s family to offer condolences. So the main challenge Romney faced was simply to recover physically. When his wife Ann was sick, Mitt had all the money in the world to make sure she had the finest health care.
Romney’s behavior on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning suggests to me that he has an even more serious problem than his obvious emotional immaturity. He seems unable to inhibit his impulses and delay gratification, at least in the context of the presidential campaign. We saw this play out over the past two days in his gleeful reaction to the tragic events in Libya, treating them as an opportunity to launch political attacks on the Obama administration.
On Tuesday night Romney’s staff e-mailed a statement to news organizations, but told them to embargo it until after midnight, presumably to avoid a negative attack on 9/11. But a short time later, the campaign removed the embargo and told the media to release it. The statement was issued around 11PM, before Romney knew what had actually happened. Did Romney himself make these decisions on his own because he just couldn’t wait to get his nasty message out? Here’s the gist of the first statement.
“I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi,” Romney said in the statement. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
This attack was based on a statement issued by the American Embassy in Cairo in an attempt to prevent protests that happened a few hours later. Here is the statement.
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
According to Politico, the State Department tried to dissuade embassy officials from releasing the statement, but they went ahead and did it, probably hoping to stave off an attack like the one that happened later in Libya.
Again on Wednesday morning Romney quickly arranged a press conference in order to get his message out before President Obama spoke. By this time, Romney knew that the the American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens had been murdered, along with three other embassy employees. But instead of changing course, he continued the same attack on President Obama that he had begun the night before, claiming that somehow the statement from the Cairo embassy demonstrated that Obama was “apologizing for American values.”
You can read the full transcript of the press conference here. The gist of Romney’s attack:
America will not tolerate attacks against our citizens and against our embassies. We’ll defend also our constitutional rights of speech and assembly and religion.
We have confidence in our cause in America. We respect our Constitution. We stand for the principles our Constitution protects. We encourage other nations to understand and respect the principles of our Constitution, because we recognize that these principles are the ultimate source of freedom for individuals around the world.
I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.
The White House distanced itself last night from the statement, saying it wasn’t cleared by Washington. That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.
The attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place and that American leadership is still sorely needed. In the face of this violence, American cannot shrink from the responsibility to lead. American leadership is necessary to ensure that events in the region don’t spin out of control. We cannot hesitate to use our influence in the region to support those who share our values and our interests.
What did Romney think he would gain from these false and undignified attacks during a time of national crisis? Why couldn’t he wait a few days for events to play out and then attack if it made sense? I think it is because Romney just doesn’t have and adult ability to control his impulses. We’ve seen this again and again, particularly on his disastrous trip to Europe. He simply says whatever comes into his head, with seemingly no ability to adjust his words to what is appropriate to a situation–or even to stick to basic facts.
Michael Cohen of the New York Daily News asks rhetorically:
Within hours of finding out that a U.S. ambassador was killed in the line of duty, Romney is engaging in a rather naked and blatant political attack against the President. It’s the type of criticism you might expect from a pundit or a back-bencher in Congress, not from a man who aspires to be President of the United States. It makes Romney look small and inclined to put politics ahead of the national interest. It is the equivalent of John McCain’s suspension of his 2008 campaign during the financial crisis and should be treated as such.
But aside from the politics of this, what does it say about a candidate who would issue a statement based on incomplete information and then double down on it even after it’s been disproven? What does it say about a candidate who actually accuses the President of openly siding with those who would harm U.S. diplomats? What does it say about a candidate who would, in a moment of grief over the death of U.S. personnel serving overseas, take the opportunity to cravenly engage in a dishonest political attack?
What it says to me is that this is a man who simply is not up to the awesome responsibilities of being President of the United States.
I’ve thought that for a long time. Now the mainstream media is beginning to understand how disastrous it would be if Romney managed to win the election and become president. A president needs to be able to stop and think before talking or taking action. Romney is apparently incapable of that level of self-control. as a child and young man, he had all his needs met by others. As an adult, he has been accustomed to issuing orders and having them followed immediately by “the help.”
Quite simply, Romney is temperamentally unsuited to the presidency. As a nominee of a major party Romney will soon receive intelligence briefings. Can he be trusted with such confidential information? Remember when he was in Great Britain and he revealed that he had had a secret briefing with MI6?
Fortunately, it looks like Romney has destroyed his credibility with the media, and he isn’t likely to recover it. He’s falling behind Obama in the polls, and unless something very dramatic happens to turn things around, it sure looks like he’s toast. But I won’t feel safe from this blundering doofus until the returns come in and he’s forced to concede the election the night of November 6.
This is a fast-moving story, so I’m sure there will be stories breaking rapidly today. But here are a few links to get you started this morning.
CNN: Romney’s political pretzel over Libya. That’s a bit of a timeline of the events of this Romney attacks and events in Egypt and Libya.
A very detailed timeline from TPM: A Timeline Of The Attacks In Libya And Egypt — And The Responses
Politico: Mitt Romney digs in on Obama ‘apology’
The New Republic: Former Romney Adviser on Libya: “They Stepped in It”
Bloomberg Businessweek: Anti-Islam Filmmaker Who Provoked Attacks Used Pseudonym
At TPM Josh Marshall discusses some odd switches in the NYT coverage of the Romney/Libya story.
[E]arlier this evening the Times ran a story entitled “Behind Romney’s Decision to Attack Obama on Libya.” The byline was David Sanger and Ashley Parker. The big news out of the story was that Romney himself had been the driver of last night’s decision making. That and a lot of other color and interesting news. As I write, it’s still that piece and lede that’s on the front page. But now it’s been replaced (same url) by an almost unrecognizable piece entitled “A Challenger’s Criticism Is Furiously Returned”, bylined by Peter Baker and Ashley Parker….
The thrust of the piece is dramatically different and, unless I’m missing something, leaves out this critical quote from a Romney senior advisor explaining their rationale. “We’ve had this consistent critique and narrative on Obama’s foreign policy, and we felt this was a situation that met our critique, that Obama really has been pretty weak in a number of ways on foreign policy, especially if you look at his dealings with the Arab Spring and its aftermath.” [….]
What happened to the other story? Pieces get rewritten all the time, especially with a breaking news story. But this would seem to require some explanation.
Here’s a satirical piece from the LA Times: Mitt Romney should triple-down on Libya: Rally with Rev. Jones!
Mitt Romney’s campaign to make the world safe for anti-Muslim hate speech breaks new ground for a presidential nominee.
But why won’t the former governor of Massachusetts take his brand of audacious truth-telling to its logical conclusion?
President Obama, or at least his State Department, is “apologizing” for the video that makes the prophet Muhammad out to be a cretinous, bed-hopping party fool — so says Romney. So why wouldn’t Romney (who has twice affirmed his critique of the administration) triple-down — with a more explicit endorsement of the talented artists who put together the 14-minute “Innocence of the Muslims.”
I’m recommending, of course, a joint rally featuring Christian Pastor Terry Jones and his proxy, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney.
This one from ABC’s The Note is scary: Who’s Advising Mitt Romney on Foreign Policy? Here’s a list from Romney’s website. Some of the names are very familiar. Eight of them were members of the Project for a New American Century, the group that pushed for Bush to attack Iraq.
Paula J. Dobriansky
I’ll wrap this up for now, and check for breaking news in the morning. So…what are you reading and blogging about today?