Via the BBC, this actually explains a lot of the Euromess: “The German word for debt – schuld – is the same as the word for “guilt” or “sin”.”

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From our most famous stopped clock:

Let’s “pause for two beats” and pay homage to the “ruthless killing machine that is the” Obama campaign, says Mark Halperin at TIME. “They have parceled out their opposition research in a manner both strategic and tactical,” ensuring that the Bain story and the controversy over Romney’s unreleased tax returns remain almost constantly in the news. “And, make no mistake, the Obamans are sitting on even more research that they will unfurl down the road.” It’s no wonder Republicans are complaining.

It has been suggested that the attacks on Romney hearken back to the brilliantly ruthless blows to John McCain in 2008. There’s a similarly thrilling element to them I admit, but overall 2012 just doesn’t feel much like 2008. What I remember most about 2008 was how much fun the general election was. It was fun to watch Obama lay into the dumb, shopworn arguments of McCain, and he seemed to be having fun doing it. Obama’s being barely able to restrain his laughter while mocking Phil Gramm’s “nation of whiners” complaints (ironically, a whine in and of itself) was just the best moment of the campaign for me. To have someone out there saying all the things that you’d been thinking for eight long years, and doing it in a way that didn’t suggest bitterness but rather optimism, was really just this amazing thing. There was nothing like it.

This election is just very, very different. The ruthlessness is still there, but it doesn’t feel the same. There’s just an overwhelming grimness about the whole thing, even though Obama is again saying a lot of things that are, from a progressive perspective, correct and undersaid. But nobody’s having much fun this time. Obama isn’t cracking up while mocking Romney surrogates, his party isn’t jubilant over the prospect of massive change (because the prospect isn’t there, except for an entitlement-shredding “grand bargain” that I don’t even want to think about). But ultimately this isn’t anything new–with the onset of the financial crisis, suddenly the whole situation took on a different air. Obama’s inauguration speech was famously sober and grim, no doubt because he was just becoming aware of how much shit we were in. I’m convinced at this point that the financial-then-economic crisis was what led to Obama’s self-consciously serious and dour attitude during much of the first term, and also what was behind his insistence on working with Republicans. Because, after all, the country comes together during a crisis, don’t we? Like after 9/11 (for like two months). One can understand his Administration’s early, cool disposition toward the left through this lens–don’t these folks realize that we’re in a crisis, and this is no time for politics? To which the general response was, tell that to Republicans. Obama’s self-presentation was what he thought the country wanted to see, but I think it was not that great for morale.

Neither was the crappy economy, of course, and that probably has a lot more to do with setting the nation’s mood than anything else. Just something I was thinking about today.

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ElsieElsie over at the GOS gets into it:

The President’s campaign knows Romney’s folks don’t want to talk about his time as Massachusetts governor because that leads to discussion of Romneycare, and they enjoyed the benefit of Romney’s stumble and faceplant after the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act. This leaves Romney’s one option – to pivot to his business experience. The Obama campaign was ready and tripped Romney mid-pivot. In the process of the Romney campaign’s flailing before national doubt and ridicule, the President’s campaign has effectively charged up his base, frustrated and depressed the GOP base, and inserted doubt into the swing voter’s mind about Romney. If the GOP candidate can’t run on governing Massachusetts, and can’t run on his Bain record, and in fact is running FROM both of those parts of his record…what’s left?

The apparent answer is saving the Olympics, which I’m really not sure people care that much about, and it’s twelve years old in any event. How many people even remember that the games twelve years ago were in trouble? I don’t know. I suspect this will do little for Romney, though. Keeping going an event meant to showcase international cooperation doesn’t mix well with the boisterous, hawkish nationalism that Romney has cultivated throughout the process. It has the side effect of clashing with one of his main themes.

Romney’s position hasn’t weakened dramatically in the polls–at least, not yet–as a result of the past few weeks of bad Bain coverage. But I’m not convinced that the Obama Campaign is interested in a mere ephemeral bump in the polls from this episode. Romney’s attempts to bring up his business career will be met tit-for-tat with any number of counterattacks down the stretch. Every minute spent fighting over whether Romney’s career was incredibly successful or inhumanly awful means less time spent on discussing the economy, and thus is probably lose-lose. If Team Obama can pull this off, history tells us that Romney SuperPACs like Restore Our Future will spend enormous sums carpetbombing the country with negative ads, hoping to disqualify Obama unilaterally. Which was probably the plan all along: phase one is Romney establishes himself as minimally competent and trustworthy, phase two is fathomless negativity courtesy of the PACs. I guess we’ll just have to see how it shakes out, though it’s worth noting this tactic’s failed him in two of his three prior campaigns.


From the BBC:

Israel’s Kadima party has left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in a dispute over military conscription for ultra-Orthodox Jews. Kadima, the largest party in the Knesset, had only joined the coalition in May to avoid an early election. But it failed to reach an agreement with Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party on the so-called Tal Law, which lets seminary students defer their military service. In February, the Supreme Court declared that the law was unconstitutional.

The coalition lasted 70 days. Bizarre. Apparently taking on baggage with religious voters was more of a threat to these guys than decimation at the ballot box.

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Nate Silver looks at the issue squarely:

One last thing to consider: although I do think these laws will have some detrimental effect on Democratic turnout, it is unlikely to be as large as some Democrats fear or as some news media reports imply — and they can also serve as a rallying point for the party bases. So although the direct effects of these laws are likely negative for Democrats, it wouldn’t take that much in terms of increased base voter engagement — and increased voter conscientiousness about their registration status — to mitigate them.

He doesn’t think they’ll have a huge effect, and he’s usually right. I hope he is this time as well.


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This is from a few days ago, via:

Glenn Kessler is a fact checker. His official job is to evaluate whether politicians’ claims are true or not. But this suggests he sees his job as not evaluating whether the Bain outsourcing claims are true, but what the motivations are for people disclosing them. That’s not his remit, folks. He is a fact-checker. And even if the SEC Commissioner was providing the information out of a sense of partisan gain, so what? Doesn’t make it any more or less factual. Does Deep Throat now retroactively not count because he wasn’t really Henry Kissinger? And his complete black-and-white view of the matter doesn’t suit the complications of the issue, I agree entirely with this.

I remember reading a book by the guy who took over IBM in the mid-90s, Lou Gerstner. IBM was in serious trouble when he took over–its core PC business was pretty much toast–so he turned it into a service-oriented company instead (his successor even sold the PC business later on). He talked about how the biggest obstacle to this transformation was the culture of IBM, how certain ways of doing things–which had once been good, smart ideas–wound up becoming calcified dogma so that they became an end in themselves, even if they didn’t work. People forgot that they were just ideas that people had to solve specific problems. Bipartisan balance in the press is much like this. In the ’50s and ’60s, it was a sign of professionalism, of having abandoned the nasty, dubious, self-interested partisan practices of yesteryear. (And, of course, the parties basically agreed on everything, so there wasn’t much of a downside!) But as the decades have passed, and several generations of newspeople have come of age imbued with the amber glow of balance, it’s gone from being a best practice sort of thing to an end in itself. Kessler’s hilarious obliviousness just shows how D.C. journalists can’t really make an argument for balance because it’s not something that journalists argue about. It’s like gravity, it’s just there. Problem is, the nation and the media are in very different places now than they were during Eisenhower’s era–the nonpartisan, mainstream media is being edged out by opinionated news and commentary. Its level of trust has been on decline for as long as I’ve been alive, and it’s only getting worse. These are the problems. But the ideology of this crowd is not fixing the problem–the mainstream media has, if anything, become even more obsessed with balance in recent years, and it hasn’t fixed the decline. I do not believe the public only wants opinion and commentary, but whatever they want from the news, the media simply isn’t providing it. This is a group that desperately needs to question its assumptions and to do some soul-searching right away, because what it’s doing just isn’t working, and every Glenn Kessler is just one more brick in the wall. I have zero confidence they will do this, though–being as Thomas Mann and Norm Ormstein were completely ignored for suggesting that Republicans have manipulated Washington to their advantage, this generation of journalists shows little ability for introspection or often even critical thought, so the decline will continue, little by little, because they’re unwilling to listen and too comfortable with the boundaries of their world to change. Yup, it’s like an ersatz version of late-period The Sopranos.

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This one came up on shuffle this week, and I’ve been listening to it pretty regularly:

I can’t say that I’ve liked every one of his albums (I think I missed one in there, too), but he’s got two great ones and two that have scattered moments of brilliance. YouTube doesn’t have the full version of The Tyranny of Distance available yet, but it’s definitely a top album of the ’00s (first track is here). Overall, quite a good singer-songwriter, and the Pharmacists make a good band to back him up. Prefer his more obscure/free-associative lyrics myself, though they’re not all like that.

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I would just chime in that I agree with Robin that Romney is in very serious trouble. Think of the pattern that’s accumulating: the obfuscation over the Bain record on jobs, outsourcing, and all that, the mysterious offshore accounts (and the magical $100 million IRA), the stonewalling on past tax records, and now his insistence that he was no longer working at a company that continued to list him as CEO and pay him lots of money.

Republicans have long thrived on the “not like you” strategy — portraying Democrats as somehow alien and un-American (remember how John Kerry supposedly “looked French”). But they’ve been throwing that stuff at Obama for four years; if they haven’t managed to turn him into a Kenyan Muslim Marxist yet, they never will. Meanwhile, they themselves have a candidate who is definitely not like the rest of us, heavily engaged in tax-avoiding financial deals that may have been legal but which voters will rightly see as the kind of thing only the very rich can pull off.

What’s more, I suspect that the honesty thing will finally gain traction. For months some of us have been groaning over Romney’s almost surreal dishonesty over policy issues, but have largely given up hope that reporters would get best “shape of the earth: views differ”. But saying you were no longer at a company that listed you as CEO gets this down to the personal level.

I wonder about this last point. Romney is a prodigious liar, this much is true, and I don’t even think anyone disagrees with that. Surely nobody did during the GOP primaries: the moderate Republicans who dominated his coalition thought he was lying about his severe conservatism, and so did the conservatives. Both sides were wrong, I think, but still. He managed to massage enough truths (and build enough support among moneymen to destroy a number of weak candidates) that he got the nomination. But he never really convinced anyone of his sincerity, which explains the item I posted the other day: way more Republicans were voting for Romney by default than because they actually liked the guy. They just hate Obama more.

Thing is, though, I don’t think Romney was faking his conservatism. My longtime stance is that Romney can talk himself into mostly anything. (He’s not been able to appear sincere about it, admittedly, which is an interesting thing to ponder that I won’t right now.) For most of the cycle it’s worked for him, he’s been able to launch utterly ridiculous attacks on Barack Obama without any scrutiny. But the danger is, what if he convinces himself of something that is false because it’s politically useful? What if, at some point, he got himself to truly believe that he left Bain in 1999, and that he didn’t do outsourcing/offshoring, that all his finances are in pristine order and there are absolutely no red flags to be found there? It’s hard to believe–even someone as cynical about the Mittster as myself has a hard time believing it. But it is plausible, especially if you’ve read Saletan’s article on his abortion stance, on how he can argue that he’s always been pro-life when that’s a ridiculous thing to believe, it would explain the past few months easily. Why has Romney failed to respond to potentially damaging attacks? Because Romney himself now believes there’s nothing to them, so there’s no point in responding when you can still talk about economic indicators.

Yeah, it’s a little nuts perhaps, but I’m having a hard time coming up with a better explanation. He’s too focused on the economy? Then why is he launching nonsense foreign policy attacks that will win him zero votes? Even if he doesn’t want to engage on the issue, there’s no excuse for getting caught so flat-footed, for not having some line to trot out when it inevitably came up. Maybe he thought Obama would be too much of a wimp to bring it up after Cory Booker complained? Possible, but if true, that would be some serious underestimation going on there. Maybe he somehow sees engaging in such a debate demeaning and prefers to take the high road? If so, the John Kerry comparisons are more apt than anyone realized, and will become even more so before long.

Anyway, getting back to Romney being perceived as dishonest: could happen, but my guess is that Romney isn’t going to be shaken if he’s convinced himself. He’ll just keep saying he left in 1999, and after a while the press will move onto something else, and will go on portraying him as a technocrat. Not like that hasn’t happened a few times already…

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