robertreich.org — “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” says Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster. A half dozen fact-checking organizations and websites have refuted Romney’s claims that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law and will cut Medicare benefits by $216 billion. Last Sunday’s New York Times even reported on its front page that Romney has been “falsely charging” President Obama with removing the work requirement. Those are strong words from the venerable Times. Yet Romney is still making the false charge. Ads containing it continue to be aired. Presumably the Romney campaign continues its false claims because they’re effective. But this raises a more basic question: How can they remain effective when they’ve been so overwhelmingly discredited by the media? The answer is the Republican Party has developed three means of bypassing the mainstream media and its fact-checkers.
Come the revolution, rich, white, male conservatives will be the only people left who can "play the race card" and get away with it. Actually, that revolution is already here. And, with apologies to Gil Scott-Heron, it is being televised — in the form of Mitt Romney's attack ads, focused on Obama's imaginary "gutting" of welfare reform.
There's a dark, bitter irony in this latest chapter in the ongoing saga of race in America. Our first African-American president can't talk about race. As Ta-Nehisi Coates explains in his excellent article in The Atlantic, "Fear of a Black President," Barack Obama has become "the most successful black politician in American history," by steering clear of "the radioactive racial issues of yesteryear." Yet the success of the GOP's Romney/Ryan ticket, dubbed "white and whiter" by Salon columnist Joan Walsh, actually depends on exploiting the "radioactive racial issues of yesteryear."
At this stage in the game, there's only one reason a campaign doubles down on a particular strategy — especially one with so much potential to backfire: it's working. The question is: Why does it work?
There are at least a few reasons why it works. See Dave Johnson's post and Digby's post for more about why we on the left are part of the reason it works, and how we can begin to do something about it. For my purposes, I'm going to focus on to big reasons why playing the race card works so well for conservatives: the media, and the base.
washingtonpost.com — Who knew? In the hall-of-mirrors parallel universe where the Republican National Convention is taking place, the GOP stands tall and proud as the party of Medicare. I’m still a little confused about the historical timeline in this alternate reality. Was it President Goldwater who signed into law the nation’s health-care guarantee for seniors? Was it President Dole who made sure the program remained solvent? Did John McCain win in 2008? It must be that in RNC World, the past simply doesn’t exist. There is no other explanation for all the Great Society rhetoric coming from Republicans who once claimed to favor small government, limited entitlements and a balanced budget.
robertreich.org — There is nothing Republicans would rather the American people forget more than George W. Bush, who doesn’t even have a bit-part at the GOP convention opening in Tampa. But W’s ghost may be there, anyway. The National Weather Service says tropical storm Isaac is now heading for New Orleans, and Isaac is projected to become a Category 1 hurricane by the time it makes landfall late Monday or early Tuesday. The GOP was intent on not even bringing up Bush’s name at the GOP convention, because the former president might also remind Americans how little the Republicans care about average Americans, like those caught in Hurricane Katrina, and how much they care about top corporate and Wall Street executives, like those being entertained in Tampa. But Hurricane Isaac seems likely to remind Americans anyway.
nytimes.com — It is the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 7, and after a long night of celebrating and a short night of sleep, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan wake up to confront the question awaiting every new administration: Of the campaign’s many promises, which few will become the real priorities? If they win the White House, Republicans are also more likely than not to hold on to the House of Representatives and win a narrow majority in the Senate. The party could then embark on the kind of aggressive legislative push that President Obama and the Democrats did in 2009. Only four years after Democrats seemed on the verge of historic policy gains, Republicans could reverse many of those gains and then some. They could cut the top tax rate to its lowest level in 80 years (as Mr. Romney proposes) and make major changes to federal programs.
washingtonpost.com — The 2008 Republican party platform on Medicare and Medicaid was pretty vanilla. It called for minor tweaks to the program that just about any health wonk could get behind, things like better coordination between doctors and more vigilance against fraud. The whole section came in at about 200 words. Politico has obtained a draft of the 2012 proposal and, for health care, four years has meant a sea change. The Republican party now throws its weight behind a complete restructuring of both entitlement programs. Since Medicare and Medicaid were created in 1965, they have operated as insurance plans where subscribers receive a set amount of benefits. The Republican plan calls for a fundamental change to that structure. They want to set a specific budget for the program and then have seniors and states figure out what benefits they can purchase. The concept of “defined benefit” gets thrown out the window.
washingtonpost.com — As a general rule in politics, if you’ve got two guys from the Republican Party running for president on a platform that says you can’t cut even a dollar from Medicare for current retirees. But here’s the thing. Paul Ryan says his budget cuts more than $5 trillion in the next decade. Less than a trillion of that is coming from Medicare. Mitt Romney says his budget cuts about $7 trillion from the budget over the next decade and not a dollar of that comes from Medicare. If you’re not cutting Medicare or Social Security or defense you’ve already taken more than half of the federal budget off the table. And you know what’s mainly left, the big pot of money you can still cut? Programs for poor people.
slate.com — One key argument Mitt Romney has been advancing about Medicare is that the Obama administration "raided" the program in order to pay for the Affordable Care Act. Since political journalism tends to exist in a plane of pure rhetoric, a lot of the Democratic pushback on this has focused on the fact that Paul Ryan and other congressional Republicans are banking on these very same cuts in order to make their own budget math add up. But Jackie Calmes' piece in today's NYT makes the more important point that Obama's alleged raid increases the life of the Medicare trust fund, and if Romney reverses the "cuts" the program actually goes bust sooner. That's because what Obama cut wasn't the flow of revenue into the Medicare piggy bank, it was the reimbursement rate Medicare pays out of the piggy bank.
thedailybeast.com — My brother-in-law Vincent sits with me as I finish this piece. He is intellectually disabled and has been repeatedly hospitalized, most recently last week. As someone who relies on Medicare, he will be deeply affected by the outcome of this election. Yet Vincent, like millions of others, doesn’t only rely on Medicare; he relies on Medicaid, too. While Democrats have been hammering Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan on Medicare over the past week, lambasting their proposal to convert the program to vouchers, far less attention has been paid to the Republican duo’s plans for Medicaid—even though, for many people, the fates of the two programs are closely linked. Medicaid has always been Medicare’s essential backstop. About one third of Medicare spending finances services for “dual-eligibles”—nine million people who, like Vincent, are eligible for both programs, and who often have complex needs. So what do Romney and Ryan have in store for dual-eligibles?
salon.com — Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were quick to flee Rep. Todd Akin’s drowning ship after he said that victims of “legitimate rape” magically don’t get pregnant, but a closer inspection reveals that Ryan’s views on abortion are not that different from Akin’s. “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape,” a Romney spokesperson said in a statement late last night. Romney, of course, has a bipolar relationship with the issue of a woman’s right to choose, but the spokesperson’s statement represents a flip-flop for Ryan, who has proposed and supported legislation that would outlaw abortion with no exception for rape.