Congress’s non-partisan budget umpire had some relatively bad news for both Republicans and Democrats in its updated scoring of the president’s health-care reform legislation.
The new estimates for the law’s cost and scope were prompted by last month's Supreme Court’s ruling that states did not have to accept the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) requirement to expand Medicaid coverage. Several states run by Republican governors who are opponents of the law have said they will not expand Medicaid to include those earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, as posited in the law.
Republicans hell-bent on repealing President Obama’s signature health-care legislation would have to find some $11 billion per year over the next decade (for a total of $109 billion) to offset the law’s repeal and avoid increasing the nation’s debt, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio on Tuesday.
In addition, the law as currently constituted will save taxpayers $84 billion, the CBO said, as greater government-subsidized participation in health-care exchanges is more than offset by lower costs from fewer Americans enrolling in Medicaid.
“These numbers tell a powerful story,” said House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland in an e-mailed statement. “The health reform legislation we passed in the Democratic-controlled 111th Congress is achieving the goals of expanding access to insurance coverage and controlling the growth of costs for Americans’ care.”
Republicans could take some solace in the fact that the $84 billion figure is down from $210 billion that the CBO had estimated in 2011 due to a variety of factors, including the Supreme Court’s ruling, changes in the rate of growth of Medicare, and the Department of Health and Human Service’s decision to halt the implementation of the law’s long-term care insurance provision.
But Democrats have to contend with the CBO’s estimate that some 3 million more Americans will go without health-care coverage in 2022 due to the Supreme Court’s ruling. Costs are going down while coverage is also declining because, as the CBO writes, two-thirds of those who will find themselves without Medicaid coverage will also be unable to access state health insurance exchanges.
If the law is fully repealed, as many as 30 million Americans, however, would be without health care insurance by 2022, according to the CBO.One conservative health-care analyst did see a benefit from potential repeal, however.
“The Supreme Court decision liberated the near-poor,” said National Center for Policy Analysis President John Goodman in an e-mail. “Residents in states refusing Medicaid expansion for people between 100% and 138% of the poverty level will now be eligible for much better, private insurance coverage.”
The CBO also estimates that repealing the law could cost somewhere in a “broad range” around 0.5 percent of GDP (currently, amounting to about $1.5 trillion) in the decade following 2022.
Still, the CBO warned that any estimates about the complex legislation and its impact on the massive US health-care market are highly uncertain.
Repeal projections “are quite uncertain because they are based, in large part, on projections of the effects of the ACA, which are themselves highly uncertain. Assessing the effects of making broad changes in the nation’s health-care and health insurance systems requires estimates of a broad array of technical, behavioral, and economic factors,” the CBO wrote.
Will the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shootings inject gun control into the 2012 presidential debate?
That’s what New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg hopes. Mayor Bloomberg has long been one of the nation’s loudest voices calling for greater restrictions on American gun access, and on a radio show Friday morning he demanded that President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney say what they’d do about this issue.
“I mean, there are so many murders with guns every day, it’s just got to stop,” Bloomberg said on talk show host John Gambling’s WOR show. “And instead of the two people – President Obama and Governor Romney – talking in broad things about they want to make the world a better place, okay, tells us how. In the end, it is really the leadership at a national level, which is whoever is going to be president of the United States starting next Jan. 1, – what are they going to do about guns?”
If history is any guide, however, Bloomberg is likely to be disappointed. In recent years high-profile tragedies similar to the Colorado killings have generally not produced sustained, high-level political debate about possible gun control legislation, said gun control expert Kristin Goss in an interview with Current TV.
“I don’t think either party has any interest in touching the subject of gun control in an election year,” said Goss, an associate professor at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, on Current TV’s news blog.
After tragic shootings that receive national media coverage the focus tends to fall on the individual who carried them out, according to Goss.
Polls tend to bear this assertion out. In the wake of the 2011 Tucson shootings, which left six dead and Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded, there was no significant change in public attitudes toward gun control and gun rights, according to the Pew Research Center. A Pew survey found the US largely split, with 49 percent saying it was more important to protect the right to own guns, and 46 percent saying it was more important to control gun ownership.
Few respondents to the poll saw the Tucson tragedy as emblematic of broad social problems. Fifty-eight percent judged such events “the isolated acts of troubled individuals.”
In general over the last decade or so there has been a pronounced shift in national attitudes toward guns, with more Americans lining up on the gun rights side of the issue, according to Pew and other pollsters.
In 1990, for instance, Gallup found that 78 percent of Americans favored stricter gun control laws, while 19 percent favored less strict or unchanged gun laws. By 2011, only 44 percent favored more gun control, while a majority of 54 percent favored looser gun regulations.
“Gallup trends on gun control show that Americans have grown less supportive of strengthening gun laws in the United States over the last two decades, notwithstanding a number of tragic gun attacks during that period,” wrote Gallup’s Frank Newport and Lydia Saad in 2011.
Politicians can read polls, of course, and this trend shows why it is unlikely that President Obama or other Democrats will use the Aurora tragedy as a reason to push an ambitious new gun law agenda.
Activists on the issue are a different case, however. Some gun control groups on Friday were already citing Aurora as a means to rally support for congressional action.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which was founded by former Reagan press secretary James Brady after he was wounded in the assassination attempt on his boss, posted a petition on its web site for visitors to sign if they felt the Aurora tragedy was a reason to help prod lawmakers towards more gun control legislation.
Meanwhile, the contestants in the presidential contest emphasized the sadness of the movement and the need to put politics aside, for now.
“We can mourn with those who mourn in Colorado,” Mitt Romney said in an appearance in Bow, N. H.
The horrific shootings in Colorado probably won’t have any long-term impact on the presidential race.
But in the short term, it’s likely to impose a temporary “truce” on a campaign that had become strikingly nasty.
“I know many of you came here today for a campaign event,” the president said. “But this morning we woke up to news of a tragedy that reminds us of all the ways we that are united as one American family.”
Calling it "a day for prayer and reflection," the president said: "If there's anything to take away from this tragedy, it's the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious. And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things. It's not the trivial things which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately, it's how we choose to treat one another, and how we love one another."
“Our hearts break with the sadness of this unspeakable tragedy,” he said. “I stand before you today not as a man running for office, but as a father and grandfather, a husband and American. This is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and remember how much we love one another. And how much we love and how much we care for our great country. There’s so much love and goodness in the heart of America.”
Both the president and Mr. Romney also issued written statements earlier Friday morning, offering prayers for the victims and emphasizing that the perpetrator must be brought to justice.
The next few days could be a critical moment for the president in particular: a chance to show leadership and bring the nation together, at a time when the public is looking for a sense of solace and resolve. In the past, national tragedies have often resulted in some of history’s most memorable presidential touchstones. Ronald Reagan’s speech after the space shuttle Challenger blew up was one of the most powerful moments of his presidency. Bill Clinton’s remarks in the following the Oklahoma City bombing were seen by many as a turning point for his presidency, setting the stage for his political comeback after his party’s humiliating midterm election losses.
On the other hand, Obama has arguably already had one of these moments: The January, 2011, shooting of former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in which six people were killed and fourteen wounded.
Speaking of the death of nine year-old Christina Taylor Green at the memorial, Obama memorably said “I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.” He also urged a better kind of political discourse: "At a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do,'' Obama said, "it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."
While Obama's remarks were well-received in general, and the nation did see a brief toning down of political rhetoric, it didn’t last long. And there's little indication that it changed the national political landscape.
Even the current political truce won’t extend to every aspect of the campaign: While both campaigns announced they would suspend political advertising in Colorado (a key swing state), attack ads in other states will likely continue to run as scheduled.
[Editor's note: This story was updated at 1:20 p.m., Eastern time, on Friday.]
Michele Bachmann’s words have produced controversy before. During her run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, she cited New Hampshire as the state where the Revolutionary War began (it was Massachusetts), insinuated that the human papillomavirus vaccine can cause mental retardation (there’s no scientific evidence of that), and said John Wayne was from her Iowa hometown (he wasn’t).
But now she’s really poking a hornet’s nest. She’s said that a longtime aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton may have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and that the group is trying to infiltrate the US government. Has she gone too far?
After all, the aide in question, Huma Abedin, is well known in Washington and widely respected. The charge that she may be acting as the secret agent of a foreign organization, which was made in a letter to the State Department signed by Representative Bachmann and three other members of Congress, has drawn a furious and bipartisan negative response.
For instance, Bachmann's former campaign manager, Edward Rollins, said in a Fox News opinion piece that his onetime boss is being extreme and dishonest.
“Having worked for Congressman Bachmann’s campaign for president, I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level,” wrote Mr. Rollins on Thursday.
And former GOP presidential candidate John McCain took to the Senate floor to denounce his fellow Republican lawmaker. He said that he had grown to admire Ms. Abedin during her years of service to the United States and could not stay silent while she was under verbal attack.
“I know Huma to be an intelligent, upstanding, hard-working, and loyal servant of our country and our government, who has devoted countless hours of her life to advancing the ideals of the nation she loves and looking after its most precious interests,” said Senator McCain.
Abedin is of Pakistani descent. She is married to Anthony Weiner, a former Democratic member of Congress from New York who was forced to resign his position in disgrace following revelations he had sent lewd photos of himself to young women. Currently she is a deputy chief of staff for Secretary Clinton.
In their letter to Harold Geisel, deputy inspector general at the State Department, Bachmann and her co-signers asserted that Abedin’s late father, her mother, and her brother all were connected in some way to Muslim Brotherhood operatives or organizations.
They referenced a report by the conservative think tank the Center for Security Policy, which has outlined what it calls the Muslim Brotherhood’s plan to influence the US government from within, and has alleged that Abedin’s family ties make her a possible point person for that effort. Abedin’s mother has been identified in Saudi Arabia as a leader of the Muslim Sisterhood, according to CSP.
“Congresswoman Bachmann and her colleagues have rendered a tremendous public service by raising an alarm about the dangers posed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘civilization jihad,’ ” said CSP president Frank Gaffney Jr., a Pentagon official during the Reagan administration.
But McCain and other defenders of Abedin said that the accusations by Bachmann and CSP were unsubstantiated and based on her ethnic background.
Juliette Kayyem, a former Department of Homeland Security official who is an American of Arab descent now married to a Jewish lawyer, noted in a Boston Globe op-ed that Bachmann’s charges are not really meant to expose some nefarious infiltration plot.
“They are intended to make Muslims or Arabs in government who are often far less senior than Abedin, or those in policy positions who seek a better relationship with the Islamic world, feel like outsiders,” writes Ms. Kayyem.
[Editor's note: The original version of this story mischaracterized Abedin's background.]
Why won’t Mitt Romney release his tax returns? He’s getting hammered on this every day. Even some Republicans are predicting that he’ll have to release them eventually. Over at the conservative RedState website, editor Erick Erickson says it’s clear President Obama will try to make Mr. Romney’s tax returns an issue until November.
Mr. Erickson writes today that he just wishes Romney would try to tie release of his returns to release of Mr. Obama’s college transcripts or more documents dealing with the Justice Department’s controversial Fast and Furious gun-walking incident.
“Romney might as well try to score some solid points on this before taking what will be spun, rightly or wrongly, as a hit. But we all know he’s going to cave,” writes Erickson.
Well, maybe. Ann Romney sounded Thursday as if the Romney camp is determined to ride this out. During an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America she said that her husband has nothing to hide and that the fact he took no salary as governor of Massachusetts and gives 10 percent of his income to the Mormon Church shows he’s a “generous person.”
“We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life,” said Mrs. Romney.
“You people”? Who are they? We think the answer to that might explain something of the Romney campaign’s attitude toward tax returns and transparency.
It’s our perception that “you people” means the news media, or possibly what Romney might call a liberal media/Democratic cabal. And the Romney campaign appears to think that they do not need to respond to demands from this group as fast, or as completely, as past candidates have believed.
Remember the whole Donald Trump thing? He was doubling down on assertions that Obama’s birth certificate is suspect at the same time he was set to hold a fundraiser with Romney. Democrats demanded he repudiate Trump, and the media chewed it over as only a Twitter-fueled 24-hour sound machine can.
Romney declined. He said only that he didn’t share Trump’s view. News leaks at the time indicated that the Romney camp thought that to disown Trump would show weakness, and in any case would only feed the controversy.
He seems to be treating the tax return question in the same way. In his view, it’s probable that producing more tax documents would only lengthen the pain, since the papers would produce lots of stuff for Obama researchers to investigate. And at this point, he can’t give in, or at least can’t give in quickly. It would look as if his response was being driven by pressure from the media and the Obama campaign. So he’s trying to ride out the Twitter storm, as he has done so far with Trump.
As it has from the beginning of the general election campaign, the Romney team is doggedly framing the election as a referendum on Obama and the economy. The challenger may not enter into it, in this view. A new CBS poll therefore must hearten Romney operatives – it shows the former Massachusetts governor ahead by 47 to 46 percent, though that slim lead is within the survey’s margin of error.
“At the end of the day, they’re going to fire the coach because things aren’t going well,” said Mrs. Romney on ABC.
It’s not quite up there with “the private sector is doing fine.” Nevertheless, it will almost certainly be coming soon to an attack ad near you.
President Obama’s statement, made at a campaign rally in Virginia last weekend, that “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen” provided an opening for the Romney campaign to hit the president at what they are presenting as his weakest spot – his failure to understand business and the economy.
Mitt Romney ridiculed the line on the campaign trail Tuesday:
“To say that Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple, that Henry Ford didn’t build Ford Motor, that Papa John didn’t build Papa John Pizza, that Ray Kroc didn’t build McDonald’s, that Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft is not just foolishness, it is insulting to every entrepreneur,” Mr. Romney said.
Examined in context, it’s pretty clear what the president was trying to say. As numerous media outlets have noted, it’s really a flubbed version of the famous Elizabeth Warren “there is nobody in this country who got rich on his own” speech that went viral last fall. Like Ms. Warren, Obama was making the argument that “wealthy, successful Americans” should pay a higher tax rate because they didn’t get to where they are without a lot of help from society. The line right before “you didn’t build that” was about roads and bridges – making it pretty clear that it was infrastructure the president was referring to, not businesses.
But the way it came out, it played right into the Romney campaign’s overall narrative about the president’s failure to understand how business and private enterprise work. .
And of course, that’s really what makes a gaffe a gaffe. If Romney’s primary point of attack against the president were something different – say, on cultural issues or foreign affairs – then the line may well have passed by unnoticed.
But when a candidate says something that seems to amplify the main argument against them, then it’s gold for the opposition.
Consider the Romney gaffes that have so far been immortalized in the campaign: “Corporations are people,” “I like being able to fire people,” or “I’m not concerned about the very poor.” All those remarks had a different – and more sympathetic – meaning in context, too. But in isolation, they played right into the Democrats' portrayal of Romney as being a heartless, out-of-touch capitalist who’s on the side of the rich, not average Americans.
Most of the time, Obama carefully balances his arguments about tax fairness and the role of government with other references to the importance of individualism. His stump speeches are typically peppered with lines like “we’re not a country that believes in handouts, we believe in working for what we get,” and “we believe in individual initiative and self-reliance.” Last week, in Iowa, he said: “We love folks getting rich. I hope Malia and Sasha go out there and if that’s what they want to do, that’s great."
But with the “you didn’t build that” line, Obama inadvertently helped feed his opponent's narrative that his real faith lies in the power of government, not private enterprise. And it gave Romney a chance to get back on offense.
A bipartisan group calling itself the “Fix the Debt Campaign” kicked off its work Tuesday, and when these clear-eyed, pragmatic, bipartisan powers combine, they just might be the granddaddy of all Washington’s seemingly never-ending stream of commissions, working groups, and “gangs” of all membership levels aimed at correcting the nation’s treacherous financial trajectory.
But that name just doesn’t have the right swing – how about The Debt Avengers? The (Fiscal) Justice League? Or, if it wasn’t already sullied by congressional impotence, The Supercommittee?
Fix the Debt has arguably accumulated everybody who is anybody in Washington’s wonky, “let’s get real” set about federal debt and deficits. The effort is led by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R) of Wyoming and Democrat Erskine Bowles. Yes, the Simpson and Bowles of the Simpson-Bowles plan to reduce the nation’s debt by $4 trillion over 10 years, which nearly every elected official in Washington says (when trying to sound reasonable and bipartisan) that they love in theory but won’t touch otherwise. A vote for a plan along the lines of Simpson-Bowles in the House earlier this year turned up less than three dozen votes.
And that’s the group’s main question: What’s going to make it different from all the other herdings of well-meaning, rational, patriotic Americans who have beat their heads against the walls of Congress and the White House to no avail? Simpson-Bowles, after all, was the product of President Obama’s own debt commission – a fact easily forgotten considering the president left the plan largely for dead upon its publication, only to broadly endorse it later on.
But Messrs. Simpson and Bowles have backup. They are joined by Alice Rivlin, the first-ever director of the Congressional Budget Office who, by her own admission, “may have served on more debt commissions than anybody in Washington,” and is half of a duo (the other is former Sen. Pete Dominici (R) of New Mexico) that published a second bipartisan debt reduction plan.
Lawmakers looking for guidance from Wall Street types can look to famed investment banker Peter Peterson on the right or Steven Rattner, Mr. Obama’s auto czar, on the left. Those who want private-sector bona fides can find them in Honeywell chairman and CEO Dave Cote and World Fuel Services chairman and CEO Paul Stebbins. And for that down-the-middle, think tank-y wonkishness, there’s former World Bank chief Robert Zoellick and the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Maya McGuineas.
How could they succeed? It won’t be as exciting as beating back an alien invasion, but could prove as difficult in today’s gridlocked Washington: First, they’ll become a clearinghouse for bipartisan pathways to solving the nation’s debt and deficit problems once the November elections are resolved.
“What we want is once this election cycle is over, we want to be available as a resource to whoever the next president is to be able to govern well and the next Congress to govern well,” said former Sen. Judd Gregg (R) of New Hampshire, one of the campaign’s co-chairmen. “We’re going to give them a lot of good ideas so they can accomplish that.”
Second, they’ll work outside Washington by building relationships with corporate leaders and running a “National Debt Tour” roadshow, among other measures, to build pressure for a comprehensive solution from beyond the Potomac. If the American people start pushing their representatives for a debt deal, they reason, its chances will improve dramatically.
“It’s necessary for us to create an environment where it becomes not only good policy to vote 'yes' for a debt-reduction plan but good politics as well,” said former Gov. Ed Rendell (D) of Pennsylvania, the campaign’s other co-chairman.
Yes, they say, a deal by July 4, 2013, is conceivable, but that would require Congress to delay some $600 billion in spending cuts and higher taxes from Dec. 31 through the middle of next year.
The group, however, is in the same bind that all organizations of former lawmakers and experts are in: They want action but are in no way able to make that happen.
They can chide the political parties, as Honeywell’s Mr. Cote did: “We can’t have people continue to revel in discordant pluralism or just indulging in simultaneous asphyxiation when we have a problem of this magnitude to address.”
They can urge the parties to act, as Mr. Bowles did: “We’ve got enough really good ideas out there, what we need now is to act. We need real action.... We do face a fiscal cliff. If we do nothing and we barrel through this fiscal cliff at the end of the year, we’re going to have about $7 trillion hit this country right in the gut.”
But what would they tell Congress to do? How are they going to help grease the levers of power in Washington to head off what they see as an imminent financial Armageddon?
“We don’t think it’s our job to tell Congress" how to deal with the fiscal cliff or with the lame duck session, said Mr. Gregg. “We’re just going to be here as a resource.”
Should Sarah Palin speak at the Republican Convention in Tampa next month? The question arises because the time is drawing near, and the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate has yet to receive her podium invite. In fact, it’s not clear whether Mitt Romney’s forces want Palin to show up in Florida at all. It’s an apparent snub about which Palin sounds philosophical, yet vaguely wistful.
“I’m sure I’m not the only one accepting consequences for calling out both sides of the aisle for spending too much money, putting us on the road to bankruptcy, and engaging in crony capitalism,” the former Alaska governor e-mailed Newsweek reporter Peter Boyer for a story on the subject published earlier this week.
The reasons why the presumptive 2012 GOP nominee might not want Palin around are obvious. She’s polarizing. She’s not great at interviews or off-the-cuff remarks. Democrats love to dislike her, and she’s not popular with independents. Her overall favorability scores are quite low. Her reality television show was a little . . . odd. She’s a reminder of a losing campaign Republicans would just as soon forget. And so on.
Plus, Mr. Romney doesn’t really need her. The theory is that a Palin appearance might win him greater Tea Party support. But at this point Republicans have all pretty much rallied behind Romney, whether they love him or not. Polls show he receives the overwhelming support of GOP-identifying voters.
Even some conservatives think her appearance in front of a Tampa microphone might be a bad idea.
“I think the negatives of such an appearance outweigh the net positives for those whose sole electoral goal is to get Obama out of office,” writes contributor Dustin Siggins at the conservative Hot Air web site.
However, here’s one point the nabobs of negativism may be forgetting: Sarah Palin is really, really good at giving convention speeches to Republicans.
Remember her 2008 St. Paul speech? We were there, and she blew the roof off the arena. At the time, delegates were a bit wary of a presidential nominee many felt lacked charisma and might be a closet moderate. (Sound familiar?) So when Palin asked them if they knew the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull, and then supplied the answer – “lipstick” – they leapt up and roared.
“She’s Numero Uno with the very voters who distrust Romney. If they can trot her out there for 10 minutes, and write remarks (and make her stick to them) that say in essence, ‘You don’t have to love Mitt Romney, but you do have to vote for him,’ I’d think that Romney would want that very much,” writes Daily Beast special correspondent Michael Tomasky today.
Yes, Democrats will howl that Republicans are promoting someone who’s mangled the history of Paul Revere’s ride, taken a hugely promoted national bus tour promoting her own noncandidacy, and otherwise served as a media-abetted gaffe production industry.
“Gov. Palin motivates and arouses an entire base,” said former Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich on conservative Laura Ingraham’s radio show Tuesday. “[She] should absolutely have a speaking slot.”
President Obama flubbed a Kiss Cam moment yesterday, in case you haven’t heard.
He and First Lady Michelle Obama were attending a Team USA basketball exhibition game at the Verizon Center in Washington when the Kiss Cam turned its lens their way during a break in the action. The First Couple’s image appeared on the big arena screen, and the crowd began to cheer. That’s because when you show up on Kiss Cam, you’re supposed to plant a smooch on your partner.
But Obama clutched. He put his arm around Michelle, and smiled for the crowd, but that was it. Some in the crowd responded with boos.
Later in the game he got a second chance. That happens when you’re president. Imagine what went on behind the scenes – perhaps a livid David Axelrod screamed at a Verizon Center official to try POTUS again or they’d learn the true meaning of “outsourced job”.
Given a retry, Obama nailed his performance, giving Michelle a big spousal kiss on the lips, and one on her forehead for good measure. The crowd cheered. According to some accounts there were chants of “four more years”, though at that point in the game it’s possible some group was just ordering “four more beers”.
But here’s our question: why did he mess this up in the first place? We’ve got some theories:
IT WASN’T FOCUS-GROUPED. In a presidential campaign virtually every word a candidate says is scripted. All actions are pre-studied and analyzed for possible effect on swing voters in Ohio. Last week on his bus tour through swing states Obama entered a Pennsylvania bakery and ordered an apple pie, for instance. You think that was an accident? We would be unsurprised to learn that the campaign team had held a meeting beforehand to consider his pastry choices and rejected German chocolate cake as too European.
In that context, Obama just didn’t know what to do when the time came for spontaneous action. Had Axelrod run this by a focus group? Do voters want a little passion in their Kiss Cam couples, or restraint? Best not to move until the Gallup poll data comes in.
WHAT’S A “KISS CAM”? It’s also possible that Obama had no idea what was expected. We’re about the same era as POTUS, and we go out on the town about as much as he does, which is to say, seldom. We were at a sporting event over the weekend and were astonished by the range of between-action activities: Kiss Cams, Most Active Fan contests, mascot races and so forth. What happened to just watching the game? When did umpires get individualized walk-up music?
Presidents might be even more insulated in this regard than the rest of us. “Wow, Michelle, look at how bright that screen is – and now they’re showing us? Why are we appearing inside a heart-shaped graphic?”
HUSBAND = CLUELESS. A corollary of reason number two might be this: it’s possible that as a longtime married guy Barack Obama is not quick on the uptake when it comes to suggestions of spousal togetherness.
When you’ve been a husband as long as he has, candlelit dinners mean the power’s out. A weed whacker might seem a perfectly appropriate anniversary gift. You TiVo Stephen Colbert, because really, who can stay up that late?
So those are our ideas. We await the Kiss Cam special episode of “Situation Room” to find out the real story from Wolf Blitzer.
Prominent Republicans have been voicing frustration with Mr. Romney for weeks now, over everything from his unwillingness to release more of his tax returns to what they see as his campaign’s flat-footedness in responding to Democratic attacks.
Strategic “advice” has been offered up on The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, and in a series of high-profile tweets from NewsCorp CEO Rupert Murdoch. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley have said publicly they thought Romney should release the tax returns.
And lately, the hand-wringing has taken a more stinging turn.
“He should release the tax returns tomorrow,” Mr. Kristol said. “You've got to release six, eight, 10 years of back tax returns.”
Over on ABC’s “This Week,” conservative columnist George Will chimed in by observing that Romney was “losing at this point in a big way.” Mr. Will added: “I do not know why, given that Mitt Romney knew the day that McCain lost in 2008 that he was going to run for president again that he didn't get all of this out and tidy up some of his offshore accounts and all the rest.”
Former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd then twisted the knife further by actually speculating that there is something damaging in the tax returns: “There's obviously something there, because if there was nothing there, he would say, ‘Have at it,’” Mr. Dowd commented. “So there's obviously something there that compromises what he said in the past about something…. [I]f he had 20 years of great, clean, everything's fine, it'd all be out there.”
Some of these folks were conspicuously not in Romney’s corner during the GOP primary campaign. Mr. Will’s wife worked briefly on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s ill-fated presidential bid, and Will was a fairly harsh critic of Romney throughout the primary season. Mr. Kristol was one of those calling for a new candidate to jump into the race even after it was pretty clear that the field was set.
But that doesn’t mean the comments won’t hurt.
Our question is whether there’s anything Romney can do at this point to appease these critics (aside from releasing the tax returns –which at this point, we suspect, won't even do it). Maybe include them all in some campaign strategy sessions? Launch a personal charm offensive? Write some checks? (Just kidding.)
Actually, his best solution might lie with his vice presidential pick. By tapping a running mate who excites those Republicans least excited about Romney himself, Romney might finally silence some of the naysayers who’ve been nipping at him.
So who gets the most thumbs up from the down-on-Romney Republicans? Will has given his stamp of approval to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Kristol also likes Congresssman Ryan, as well as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. (He likes Condoleezza Rice, too – though as we’ve written, we think that’s unlikely to happen.)
Of course, those are not the candidates most often cited as the true frontrunners (those would be Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty). Which means Romney may be about to disappoint his critics on the right again. Watch out for the knives.