From Here to Anonymity (Man of a Thousand Farces edition)

With a shudder, it occurred to me the other day that I’ve been writing about Willard Mitt Romney, off and on, for nineteen months. There are very few things I dream of spending nineteen months writing about, and he sure as hell isn’t one of them. Nevertheless, with Romney down to his final hours of pretending he can become President of the United States of America, the travail continues.

First, though, let me get Paul Ryan out of the way. Whatever he was thought, or hoped, to bring to the Republican ticket, what Ryan mostly brought was additional opportunities for ridicule, and even the shallow entertainment value thus provided got old fast. The vaunted conservative policy wonk – a “numbers guy” whose numbers (when he bothers to offer any) never add up, a “serious thinker” whose cherished political convictions are a bumper sticker pastiche of Ayn Rand’s Epistles to the Terminally Selfish, a small-government zealot whose entire life, pretty much, has consisted of feeding, if not gorging, at the public trough – has been surprisingly useless to the ticket. And I say “surprisingly” because I’d assumed that merely by naming a running mate, any running mate, the top of the ticket would receive a little less scrutiny, thereby benefiting the campaign. Happily, I stand corrected.

I was also convinced it was damn near impossible that a person could look more ludicrous than Ryan did in his now-infamous “Hey Girl” beefcake shoot, but I erred on that score, as well. In a world where Ryan could become the vice-presidential nominee of a major political party in the first place, not only was it possible, it was probably inevitable. When I saw the photos of the assistant-Commander-in-Chief-wannabe at a soup kitchen he was never invited to, stylin’ for the cameras as he scrubbed clean pots and pans, his grinning wife standing nearby, I experienced that vilest of emotions: feeling embarrassed for people too oblivious to be embarrassed for themselves. Mixed, of course, with newly refreshed loathing.

Yet even this sleazy perfidy pales beside the Romney/Ryan campaign’s crass exploitation of the Hurricane Sandy disaster, when a scheduled Dayton campaign rally was hastily converted into a “storm relief event.” BuzzFeed has a terrific piece on the debacle, brimming with ghastly details, but the short version is that Romney’s handlers rushed to Walmart, spent $5,000 on groceries and other items the Red Cross didn’t want, handed them out to attendees so that the attendees could then “donate” them back, and all the while were blithely unconcerned that the obviously phony event would be exposed as, well, obviously phony. Not quite as spectacularly phony as George Bush’s victory jig on an aircraft carrier, granted, but culled from the same Republican playbook. Not satisfied with this smarmy charade, Romney then embarked on some epic hurricane-driven flip-flopping over just what he would or wouldn’t do with FEMA were the country to lose its collective mind and elect him, and topped it all off Wednesday morning in Tampa by urging 2,000 perfervid supporters to dig, uh, not very deep:

“So please if you have an extra dollar or two, send them along and keep people who have been in harm’s way, who’ve been damaged either personally or through their property, keep them in your thoughts and prayers…”

As the media continued to stream horror stories from Sandy’s wake, Romney’s Thursday afternoon rally in Virginia Beach was interrupted by a protester, who asked:

What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!

As the candidate silently watched with his trademark vacant leer, the crowd began the boorish “USA!” chant Republican mobs, weirdly, use to try and shut up people they disagree with, as the protester was hauled away. Stinky little scenes like this have been integral to the Romney campaign, rather than isolated, garish eruptions of excessive exuberance, as they tended to be characterized back when Sarah Palin – or Ryan 1.0, as I now think of her – incited GOP crowds by claiming that Barack Obama “palled around with terrorists.”

As the last day of this sordid, abysmal campaign crawls by, we can at least be grateful that a few heretofore-obscure details are becoming clearer. That sure beats having to wait for the impending slew of tell-all books by Romney/Ryan campaign insiders, most of which will be read all the way through only by reviewers (and only because they’ll be paid to do so).

The recent plague of plutocratic extortionists threatening their employees with dire consequences for failure to vote Romney comes to mind. In These Times helpfully connected the dots back to a June 6 conference call where the candidate himself urged such a course: Continue reading From Here to Anonymity (Man of a Thousand Farces edition)

Sunday Talks, 5/27/12

Military and veterans issues lead the Sunday television talk shows this Memorial Day weekend, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta headlining ABC’s “This Week.”

CNN’s “State of the Union” has Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 5/27/12

Take Five (Do Not Disturb edition)

ONE: Fired Up and Ready to Stay Home!

A couple of weeks back, Take Five looked at a CBS News poll which indicated that voter enthusiasm (meaning a lack thereof) could be a huge problem for the Republicans this year.

The Atlantic Wire recently examined other polls that pretty much confirm the hypothesis. A January 30 Pew poll, for example, pegged the number of Republicans happy with their field of candidates at 46%, while those dissatisfied with it were measured at 52%. As has become a cliché this election year, they can’t resist citing yet another Gallup poll purporting to demonstrate that Republicans remain more enthusiastic about this election than Democrats. The only problem with this is that the accumulating empirical evidence suggests it’s not true.

Nate Silver notes that among “Republican identifiers” only, turnout in Iowa was down 11% over 2008 and New Hampshire was down 15%, and while South Carolina’s turnout jumped 20% over the last presidential election cycle, driven by Gingrich zealots, Florida’s was down 16% from ’08. According to CNN, Nevada’s Republican numbers last Saturday were down by one-third from four years ago.

Watch for increasingly desperate and increasingly amusing spin about all this to emanate from Republican Party apparatchiks and pundits in the coming weeks, but they’ll have to really exert themselves to outdo Romney spokesmouth John H. Sununu, who said this with a resolutely straight and characteristically dour face on MSNBC Monday morning:

In an odd sense when turnout is down, contrary to what you are hearing, people are satisfied with the winning and the candidate that’s winning. They are satisfied with Mitt Romney.

Yeah, sure they are. I’m hoping they’re so satisfied they’ll all stay home in November, too. Sununu’s explanation for that will be priceless.

Ron Paul, seemingly unaware that he himself is a candidate, made some caustic remarks about the Nevada and Florida numbers:

“There’s a lot of people not satisfied with any of the candidates out there,” the Texas congressman said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “And that’s why in many ways we’re seeing a lower turnout right now…”

Mr. Paul said Republicans are wondering why they haven’t been offered someone else besides Mr. Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The last time I looked, Republicans were also being offered, aggressively, not only Ron Paul but also Rick Santorum, and not long ago they also had such choices as Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Herman Cain, not to mention perplexingly premature dropout Tim Pawlenty and even perennial wingnut darling Roy “Ten Commandments” Moore. And then there was the contingent of maybes whose trial balloons, for the most part, never got any altitude: Chris Christie, Donald Trump, Mitch Daniels, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani.

I apologize for taxing your digestive tract with this litany of names, gentle reader, but I think it points up the fact that GOP voters have had no shortage of choices; they’ve only had a shortage of remotely acceptable choices, even by famously lax Republican standards.

So Romney remains the frontrunner, his three remaining challengers – for various reasons – will hang around a while yet, and Republican voters are less than impressed with the whole spectacle. Hey, it’s nice to agree with Republicans about something, I guess.

TWO: Y’all don’t come back now, hear?

The Charleston Place Hotel has filed suit against the Southern Republican Leadership Conference for non-payment of a $227,872 bill. The SRLC disputes the charge and has declared its intention to launch a counterclaim. In a statement released Monday, the organization said:

“After prepaying over $235,000 to the Charleston Place Hotel, we at SRLC 2012 had an unprofessional experience that directly and indirectly breached our contract causing great harm and distraction to our attendees, sponsors, and staff. The Charleston Place’s attempt to mischaracterize this legitimate dispute as the SRLC’s walking away from a bill is in keeping with the pattern of deception and misrepresentation that is a significant part of our ongoing disagreement.

“We continue to seek a reasonable and equitable settlement even as the Charleston Place’s Management seeks to sensationalize. We sincerely hope that cooler heads at the Charleston Place will prevail and they will acknowledge serious errors and actions resulting in a fair agreement.”

The conference lined up a Jan. 19-22 stay… and booked nearly every room in the luxury hotel in the center of downtown Charleston, according to the lawsuit. Political consultant Robert Cahaly signed the agreement on behalf of the group…

The hotel wants to hold Cahaly and others personally responsible for the tab, arguing that the Southern Republican Leadership Conference is nothing but a corporate shell Cahaly uses to hide from his obligations, the lawsuit states.

Cahaly has kept a pretty low profile since threatening to sue the SC SLED before turning himself in on an arrest warrant last fall on charges of making illegal robocalls in half a dozen House Districts in the 2010 election. While there don’t seem to be any recent updates about that case, I’m already looking forward to this new one. If the hotel really has evidence that the SRLC is a corporate front for Cahaly, I can’t wait to read the details. It’s also going to be fascinating to see if the organization’s counterclaim is predicated on something more substantial and credible than Charleston Place management being unprofessional, deceptive, sensationalistic hotheads.

THREE: You’re Nobody ’til Rick Santorum Hates You

Fresh off of telling a seriously ill child and his mother that drug companies should be free to charge whatever the hell they want for the boy’s medication, Rick “Mr. Sensitive” Santorum told a gay Missouri man that he didn’t deserve the “privilege” of marriage. In doing so, Santorum briefly opened a wormhole into the strange and uncharted dimension that is his mind when he said:

“[Marriage is] not a right, it’s something that has existed since the beginning of human history as an institution where men and women come together for the purposes of forming a natural relationship as God made it to be. And for the purposes of having children and continuing that civilization. It is an intrinsic good… And as a result of that, we extend a privilege. We extend certain privileges to people who do that because we want to encourage that behavior…”

Actually, Senator, you don’t need to bother encouraging that behavior, since your enthusiastic advocacy of another type of behavior helps ensure that humans, gay or straight, won’t be around to mess up Creation much longer anyway:

A day before Republicans voice[d] their presidential preferences in the Colorado caucuses, Rick Santorum dismissed climate change as “a hoax” and advocated an energy plan heavy on fossil fuels.

True to form, Santorum couldn’t opine on this without dragging his close personal friend, God, into it:

“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the earth’s benefit,” Santorum told an audience at the Colorado School of Mines where he was a guest speaker Monday at the Colorado Energy Summit.

“We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through that course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create…”

The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania argued that science has been hijacked by politicians on the left, and that climate change is “an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life…

“I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face and yet we have politicians running into the ramparts, unfortunately politicians who happen to be running for the Republican nomination for president who bought into man-made global warming and bought into cap and trade…”

Small wonder that Sarah Palin’s star has faded; with Rick Santorum in the news, fans of nonsensical word salad can get their fill and more. At least until catastrophic climate change leads to their extinction, that is.

Oh, and about that “sauce” he mentioned… never mind. Continue reading Take Five (Do Not Disturb edition)

Sunday Talks, 2/5/12

On Super Bowl Sunday, there’ll still be plenty of presidential politics on the morning television talk shows. (And Obama will be on before the Super Bowl!)

Three Republican presidential rivals will make the rounds: Newt Gingrich on . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 2/5/12

Florida Fallout: Perry, Romney Withdraw from GOP Race

With just 406 days remaining until the 2012 Presidential election, the Republican nominating process moved inexorably toward its conclusion today as former front-runners Rick Perry and Mitt Romney unexpectedly withdrew from the . . . → Read More: Florida Fallout: Perry, Romney Withdraw from GOP Race

Giuliani Filing May Signal 2012 Presidential Bid

Former New York City Mayor and 2008 Republican presidential hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani’s announcement that he has filed the necessary papers to officially change his name represents a clear sign to analysts, pundits, and street vendors alike that the man once known as ‘America’s Mayor’ will soon be jumping into the 2012 GOP primary race.

Appearing on the September 11th edition of CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’, Giuliani surprised hardly anyone when he first referred to himself as ‘Rudy 9/11′, but did raise more than a few eyebrows with his revelation that he is officially changing his name from ‘Rudolph W.  Giuliani’ to ‘Rudy Nyneleven’.  Speaking from the Ground Zero site of the newly dedicated 9/11 Memorial, he declined to address host Bob Schieffer’s questions about a possible 2012 bid, saying, “As I stand here on this hallowed ground, on the 10th anniversary of the profound tragedy that marked my finest hour – both personally, professionally, and politically – I feel it would be inappropriate and selfish to discuss my future, personal or political, at this time.  I do expect, however, perhaps as soon as this evening, to be making an announcement via the website of my SuperPAC, ItsNyneleveninAmerica.org which should answer all the questions so many people have been asking me lately about my plans.”

When asked if the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3000 innocents on American soil would be the appropriate time to announce, either way, what his decision regarding the 2012 campaign will be, Nyneleven bristled, “Of course it would be appropriate.  It couldn’t possibly be more appropriate.  September 11th is my day – I am 9/11.  We are synonymous – one and the same.  I am nothing without 9/11 and 9/11 is nothing without me…”

At that point, perhaps due to a technical glitch, the network cut to commercial.

A short time later when asked for comment, long time Nyneleven associate and Executive Director of ItsNyneleveninAmerica.org Bernard Kerik, when reached at his residence in the federal correction facility at Cumberland, Maryland, told reporters, “While I cannot comment on what Rudy’s going to do, I will tell you to stay tuned for a major announcement.” Continue reading Giuliani Filing May Signal 2012 Presidential Bid

Sunday Talks, 9/11/11

This Sunday’s television talk shows are built around the commemoration ceremonies of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Shanksville, Pa.

CBS’s “Face the Nation” will broadcast live from the . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 9/11/11

Sunday Talks, July 17, 2011

President Barack Obama’s budget director, Jack Lew, makes the rounds on this Sunday’s television talk shows, as the administration and congressional leaders continue to struggle to forge a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, July 17, 2011

Take Five (Precious Bodily Fluids edition)

ONE: Life During Wartime

A few months from now, we’ll have flushed away 10 years occupying Afghanistan for reasons that still don’t pass the smell test, and it seems that, just maybe, the shared wartime sacrifice called for by neither George Bush the Lesser nor his Oval Office successor has become unavoidable, at least in some jurisdictions.

The New York Post reported last week that toilet paper was apparently being rationed by bathroom attendants in the women’s rooms at Coney Island:

Regina Ballone, 25, of Brooklyn visited a boardwalk bathroom at West 16th Street Wednesday and was “grossed out” at the thought of someone else handling her toilet paper.

“Never in my life have I experienced anything like this,” she said. “I walked toward a stall, and a bathroom attendant stopped me by shouting, ‘Hey, mami! There’s no toilet paper here,’ and she whipped out a big roll for me to grab some.”

However, the initial report was quickly deemed crap by the Parks Department:

The Parks Department refused to say how much it budgeted for toilet paper and other supplies, with a spokeswoman saying only, “Bathroom supplies are stocked daily, and our budget for these supplies is consistent.

“There’s no need to ration, and we’ll make certain our staff does not do so,” added the rep, Meghan Lalor.

Staff were demonstrably not doing so in the men’s rooms, at least:

Toilet paper rationing isn’t an issue in the men’s rooms — but only because they apparently don’t have any to ration. The toilet paper was gone whenever a The Post reporter went to inspect the men’s rooms.

The following day, the Parks Commissioner more or less un-denied the prior denial and came clean on the whole nasty affair:

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe ended the rationing of toilet paper at Coney Island yesterday — admitting that The Post’s potty exposé left him flush with embarrassment.

“We don’t know why [some workers] decided to ration toilet paper. Clearly . . . it was a mistake,” Benepe said.

“The economic conditions are challenging, but not that challenging. If you go there today, you’ll find toilet paper in every stall,” he said. “It’s our business to help New Yorkers do theirs.” Continue reading Take Five (Precious Bodily Fluids edition)