Aegis Chronicle

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

All against Cain: Upstart targeted in GOP debate

In News, Politics, Republican on October 19, 2011 at 9:02 am
Caricatures: GOP Presidential Debate Participants

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

By KASIE HUNT, AP

Republican presidential contenders attacked upstart Herman Cain‘s economic plan as a tax increase waiting to happen Tuesday night, moving swiftly in a fiery campaign debate to blunt the former businessman’s unlikely rise in the race for the party’s nomination.

Old animosities flared, too, as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry swapped criticism in unusually personal terms. “You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking,” Romney declared as the two men interrupted one another repeatedly in a disagreement over immigration, one of several vigorous clashes they had.

In a bow to Nevada voters, who will be among the first to choose among the candidates early next year, no one said he wanted to open a proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in a remote part of the state.

The fifth debate in six weeks ranged over familiar and contentious territory — from immigration and health care to the economy and energy, often in antagonistic terms. The candidates engaged each other more directly and sometimes more heatedly than in previous debates.

Romney’s Mormon faith also came up, and Perry said he disagreed with a pastor and political supporter who described the religion as a cult. “I can’t apologize any more than that,” the Texan said.

“That’s fine,” responded Romney.

But Cain’s unlikely rise from asterisk in the polls to contender was clearly on the minds of his rivals on stage in a hotel along the Las Vegas Strip.

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota led the verbal assault moments after the debate began, saying his call for a 9 percent federal sales tax would only be the beginning, with the rate rising later.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania wasn’t nearly as gentle, citing one analysis that found that taxes would go up for 84 percent of the nation’s households if Cain’s proposal went into effect. “We’re talking about major increases in taxes,” he said, adding that a single person and a couple with children with the same income would pay the same tax under Cain’s proposal.

Undeterred, Cain insisted the charges were untrue. He said he was being criticized because lobbyists, accountants and others “want to continue to be able to manipulate the American people with a 10-million- word mess,” the current tax code.

Cain’s proposal is for a 9 percent personal income tax, a 9 percent corporate tax and a 9 percent national sales tax.

The former pizza company CEO is the latest and unlikeliest phenomenon in the race to pick a Republican rival for President Barack Obama. A black man in a party that draws few votes from Africans Americans, he had bumped along with little notice as Romney sought to fend off one fast-rising rival after another.

That all changed in the past few weeks, after Perry burst into the race and then fell back in the polls. However unlikely Cain’s rise, Tuesday night’s debate made clear that none of his rivals are willing to let him go unchallenged.

“Herman, I love you, brother, but let me tell you something, you don’t need to have a big analysis to figure this thing out,” Perry said to Cain. “Go to New Hampshire where they don’t have a sales tax and you’re fixing to give them one,” he said, referring to the state that will hold the first primary early next year.

The debate was the fifth since Labor Day, and the last scheduled for nearly a month in a race that is fluid in more than one way.

While polls chart a series of rises and falls for various contenders — Romney remaining at or near the top — the schedule is far from set. Florida’s decision to move up its primary set off a scramble as Iowa maneuvered to make sure its caucuses are the first real test of the race and New Hampshire works to protect its half-century distinction as host to the first primary.

It was Perry who instigated the confrontation over immigration, saying that Romney had no credentials on the issue because he had once hired an illegal worker, the “height of hypocrisy.”

Romney denied the charge, saying he had hired a company to mow his lawn and did not know that it had an illegal immigrant on its payroll.

The two men talked over one another, and at one point, Romney placed his hand on Perry’s shoulder.

“It’s been a tough couple of debates for Rick. And I understand that so you’re going to get testy,” he said.

As Perry continued to speak, Romney stopped him: “You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking, and I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you’ve got to let both people speak,” he said.

On a more substantive level, Perry said he opposed repealing the portion of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that says anyone born in the United States is automatically a citizen.

Bachmann, Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas all sidestepped the question.

Cain found himself on the defensive on two others issues during the two-hour debate.

He apologized for earlier remarks about building an electric fence on the Mexico border that could kill people trying to cross illegally.

And he said he wouldn’t be willing to negotiate with terrorists, even though he suggested he might be in an interview earlier in the day.

Foreign policy took a secondary role in the debate, and the new strain of Republican isolationism quickly surfaced.

Paul said U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Korea — where they have been stationed for more than 50 years — and foreign aid to Israel cut.

Perry said it was “time to have a very serious discussion about defunding the United Nations.”

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman skipped this debate, saying he was boycotting the Nevada caucuses in a dispute over the primary and caucus calendar. He is campaigning exclusively in New Hampshire in hopes of a victory that can move him into the thick of the race.

Not only Republicans, but Obama was also critical of Cain’s economic plan during the day.

In an interview with ABC News, Obama said it would be a “huge burden” on middle-class and working families.

Source:  Associated Press.

 

 
 
 
 
Advertisements

Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan Gain’s Big-Name Backers

In News, Politics, Republican on October 15, 2011 at 9:10 am

Republican Presidential Candidate: Herman Cain

By: Martin Gould and David A. Patten

Herman Cain’s catchy 9-9-9 tax overhaul system is gathering major supporters as the former pizza magnate consolidates his position at the top of the Republican field in the race for the White House.

House budget committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan and Ronald Reagan’s economic guru Art Laffer both expressed their support for the plan which would replace the current tax code.

The anti-tax Club for Growth also came out in favor of Cain’s plan which would cut income and corporate taxes to 9 percent and institute a new national sales tax at the same level. Payroll, capital gains and estate taxes would all be eliminated under Cain’s proposals.

Eventually Cain’s plan calls for the complete elimination of income taxes – and the IRS – and the introduction of what he calls the Fair Tax, in which the all Federal revenue would come from a sales tax.

“I love the 9-9-9 plan, it’s a great first step,” Laffer told Fox News’ Bret Baier. “This is a lot better than our current tax laws that are filled with all sorts of ducks, chickens, pigs and turkeys. They’ve just got to be cleaned out and we’ve got to completely revamp the codes.”

Ryan didn’t go quite as far. The Wisconsin congressman did not endorse the plan, but praised it saying he loved “specific and credible” proposals.

Club for Growth president Chris Chocola called the 9-9-9 “an outline for a more prosperous and globally competitive America,” saying it is “both pro-growth and a good starting point on the way to a flat or fair tax.

“Eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends and combining that with huge rate cuts in both corporate and income taxes would create an unparalleled economic boom,” said Chocola. “9-9-9 also eliminates the regulatory and compliance costs from the current tax code that suck billions out of the economy each year.”

Much of the criticism of the plan has been the idea of a new sales tax, which critics fear would be bound to grow. But Chocola dismissed those fears. “Of course a future Congress could raise taxes above the 9 percent levels, but under our current monstrosity of a tax system, Congress already can raise taxes at any time and often has. It is on a path to do so yet again next year with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

“Herman Cain’s proposal might not be the perfect plan, but it is a truly revolutionary tax reform that would amount to a massive job creating tax cut on investments, savings, and income.”

And Chocola issued a challenge to others in the GOP race. “Instead of tearing down ideas that would create economic growth and jobs, the other Republican presidential candidates should produce their own plans to achieve a flatter and more growth-oriented tax code. The American people deserve nothing less.”

Backing for Cain’s plan also came from Kevin Hassett, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute also praised the Cain’s proposal for moving towards a flat tax. “If someone’s going to attack the 9-9-9 plan, I would say they should be careful because you are talking about the Republican holy grail,” he told the Associated Press.

More equivocal support came from Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office who advised John McCain during his presidential run. “I don’t think it’s dramatically out of line with reality,” he told Bloomberg.

And Alan Viard, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, which favors smaller government, said the revenue estimates were “in the ballpark in some vague sense.” But Viard said the rates might need to be a little about 9 percent to generate the same revenues as the the current tax code.

As Cain has risen to the top of the GOP field – he is now running neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney at the top of polls –his plan has come under attack. During Tuesday’s GOP debate former Utah Gov. John Huntsman joked that he thought it was the price of pizza while Spirit Airlines have mocked the scheme by bringing in a 9-9-9 plan for certain fares. Texas Gov.Rick Perry’s wife, Anita, said, “When I hear 9-9-9, I want to call 9-1-1.”

Others have even suggested Cain got the idea from the video game SimCity 4 in which citizens live under a tax code of 9 percent for commercial taxes, 9 percent for industrial taxes and 9 percent for residential taxes.

Cain’s case wasn’t helped when he refused to name his advisors, except for “Rich Lowrie from Cleveland, Ohio,” during the Dartmouth College debate. Investigations soon found that Lowrie is a personal tax consultant for a Wells Fargo bank branch in Pepper Pike, an affluent suburb of Cleveland, who has no training in economics.

Lowrie himself defended the plan on Fox News on Friday, claiming, “The economy will expand by $2 trillion, 6 million jobs are going to be created and the unemployment rate will come back down to a more typical or natural rate of 4 or 4 ½ percent.

“Wages are going to go up by 10 percent, businesses investment will go up by a third,” Lowrie added, saying those figures came from former Treasury Department aide Gary Robbins. In an interview with Politico, although Robbins praised the plan, he added, “There’s nothing wrong with the plan, it just wouldn’t be the one I picked.”

Lowrie said Cain had told his advisers he wanted a “simple, transparent, efficient, fair and neutral,” tax code, adding “I want to tax everything once and nothing twice.”

Fox News contributor Stephen Hayes, of the Weekly Standard, said he couldn’t understand why Cain had not mentioned Laffer’s name at the debate instead of Lowrie’s. Despite that, he said Cain’s plan is resonating with the public.

“The most effective line Cain had in the debate the other night was when he said these politicians are all telling you this can’t be done, well I’m not a politician and that’s why I’m making these arguments,” said Hayes.

“He’s really talking to a huge swath of the Republican primary base and Independent voters as well to say the politicians have handled this for years and years and years and that’s why we are where we are.”

Source: Newsmax.

 

Senate GOP poised to scuttle Obama’s jobs plan

In Barak Obama, Democrats, News, Politics, Republican on October 11, 2011 at 10:04 am

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Ariz., talks about President Obama's job bill, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By ANDREW TAYLOR, AP

 

President Barack Obama’s jobs bill, facing a critical test in the Senate, appears likely to fail because Republicans oppose its spending components and its tax surcharge on millionaires.

Obama has been waging a campaign-style effort to rally public support behind the $447 billion measure, which was expected to be the subject of a Senate vote Tuesday. The plan combines payroll tax cuts for workers and businesses with $175 billion in spending on roads, school repairs and other infrastructure, as well as unemployment assistance and help to local governments to avoid layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers.

The key elements of the jobs package reprise parts of Obama’s $800 billion-plus 2009 stimulus measure and a Social Security payroll tax cut enacted last year. Unlike the controversial stimulus bill, the jobs measure would be financed by a 5.6 percent surcharge on income exceeding $1 million, raising more than $450 billion over a decade.

In making the case for the bill, the White House cites economists like Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, who predicts that the measure would add 2 percentage points of growth to the economy, add 1.9 million payroll jobs and reduce unemployment by a percentage point. But Republicans point to optimistic predictions about the 2009 measure that didn’t come to pass; unemployment hovers just above 9 percent nationwide.

Republicans say the 2009 stimulus measure was an expensive failure and say the current plan is just like it.

The president has been struggling in opinion polls, and his crusade for the measure has always been a long shot, given that Republicans control the House and can filibuster at will in the Senate. Obama has nonetheless pressed for the bitterly divided Congress to pass the measure in its entirety rather than seek compromise with his GOP rivals.

“This is not the time for the usual games or political gridlock in Washington,” Obama said in his weekend radio and Internet address. “Any senator out there who’s thinking about voting against this jobs bill needs to explain why they would oppose something that we know would improve our economic situation.”

While Republicans backed the payroll tax cut last year and support elements like continued tax breaks for investments in business equipment, they’re adamantly opposed to further spending and say the tax surcharge would strike at small businesses.

“It’s not a jobs bill. In our view, it’s another stimulus bill,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Fox News last week. “I don’t think it’ll pass and I don’t think it should.” House GOP leaders say they won’t bring the measure to the floor.

Democratic unanimity is not assured. Moderates like Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. — both are up for re-election next year in states where Obama figures to lose — may abandon their party, even as oil-state Democrats have been assuaged by a decision to get rid of an Obama proposal to have oil companies give up tax breaks.

“We’re likely to lose two, three, four Democrats,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, told Chicago’s WTTW-TV Monday. “I don’t know if we’ll pick up any Republicans.”

Tuesday’s vote is on whether to cut off a GOP filibuster on a motion to simply begin debate on the measure. If Democrats fail as expected — they control 53 votes in the 100-member Senate — it will start up a fresh wave of partisan finger-pointing.

Both the House and Senate are then expected to turn this week to approving U.S. trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, one of the few areas of agreement between Republicans and the administration on boosting the economy.

Source: Associated Press

 

 
 
 
 

SPIN METER: Obama disconnects rhetoric, reality

In Barak Obama, Democrats, News, Politics, Republican on October 10, 2011 at 10:11 am

 

President Barak Obama

By ERICA WERNER, AP

In President Barack Obama’s sales pitch for his jobs bill, there are two versions of reality: The one in his speeches and the one actually unfolding in Washington.

When Obama accuses Republicans of standing in the way of his nearly $450 billion plan, he ignores the fact that his own party has struggled to unite behind the proposal.

When the president says Republicans haven’t explained what they oppose in the plan, he skips over the fact that Republicans who control the House actually have done that in detail.

And when he calls on Congress to “pass this bill now,” he slides past the point that Democrats control the Senate and were never prepared to move immediately, given other priorities. Senators are expected to vote Tuesday on opening debate on the bill, a month after the president unveiled it with a call for its immediate passage.

To be sure, Obama is not the only one engaging in rhetorical excesses. But he is the president, and as such, his constant remarks on the bill draw the most attention and scrutiny.

The disconnect between what Obama says about his jobs bill and what stands as the political reality flow from his broader aim: to rally the public behind his cause and get Congress to act, or, if not, to pin blame on Republicans.

He is waging a campaign, one in which nuance and context and competing responses don’t always fit in if they don’t help make the case.

For example, when Obama says his jobs plan is made up of ideas that have historically had bipartisan support, he stops the point there. Not mentioned is that Republicans have never embraced the tax increases that he is proposing to cover the cost of his plan.

Likewise, from city to city, Obama is demanding that Congress act (he means Republicans) while it has been clear for weeks that the GOP will not support all of his bill, to say the least. Individual elements of it may well pass, such as Obama’s proposal to extend and expand a payroll tax cut. But Republicans strongly oppose the president’s proposed new spending and his plan to raise taxes on millionaires to pay for the package.

The fight over the legislative proposal has become something much bigger: a critical test of the president’s powers of persuading the public heading into the 2012 presidential campaign, and of Republicans’ ability to deny him a win and reap victory for themselves.

“He knows it’s not going to pass. He’s betting that voters won’t pick up on it, or even if they do they will blame Congress and he can run against the `do-nothing Congress,'” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California‘s School of Policy, Planning and Development.

John Sides, political science professor at George Washington University, said Obama‘s approach on the jobs bill is “more about campaigning than governing.”

“He’s mostly just going around talking about this and drawing contrasts with what the Republicans want and what he wants and not really trying to work these legislative levers he might be able to use to get this passed,” Sides said. “That just suggests to me that he is ready to use a failed jobs bill as a campaign message against the Republicans.”

The president’s opponents aren’t exactly laying it all out, either.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tried to force a vote on the bill last week, innocently claiming that the president was entitled to one. McConnell knew full well that the result would be failure for the legislation and an embarrassment for Obama.

House Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, claimed that Obama has “given up on the country and decided to campaign full-time” instead of seeking common ground with the GOP. But Boehner neglected to mention that Obama’s past attempts at compromise with Republicans often yielded scant results, as Obama himself pointed out.

The approach for Obama, who is seeking a second term in a dismal economy, is far different than the one he took when running for president. He criticized the GOP then, but talked about ending blue-state and red-state America, replacing it with one America, fixing the broken political system, and fundamentally changing Washington.

That ended up being change he could not bring about, and now analysts say Obama may have little choice but to campaign more narrowly by attacking opponents rather than trying to bring people together.

Obama’s attempts at compromise with the GOP on the debt ceiling and budget won him little in the way of policy, instead engendering frustration from Democrats who saw him as caving to Republican demands.

The new, combative Obama isn’t looking for compromise. He’s looking for a win. And if he can’t get the legislative victory he says he wants, he has made clear that he’s more than willing to take a political win.

It is, he acknowledges, a result his campaign for his jobs bill is designed to achieve.

Talking up the bill in an appearance last month with African-American news websites, Obama said: “I need people to be out there promoting this and pushing this and making sure that everybody understands the details of what this would mean, so that one of two things happen: Either Congress gets it done, or if Congress doesn’t get it done, people know exactly what’s holding it up.”

Source:  Associated Press.

 

 
 
 
 

Presidential race loses fizz for Tea Party

In News, Politics, Tea Party on October 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm

A man carries a U.S. flag during a Tea Party rally in Napa, California

By Patricia Zengerle and Eric Johnson, Reuters

With their favored candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination lagging or out of the race, many U.S. Tea Party activists are shifting focus to the struggle for control of the U.S. Senate.

The fizz has gone out of the presidential contest for some supporters of the fiscally conservative movement now that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is not running and Texas Governor Rick Perry and congresswoman Michele Bachmann are slipping in polls.

“No one is going to get perfect in a general election candidate. That is why we think the Senate is a better place to focus,” said Matt Kibbe, president and chief executive of the libertarian FreedomWorks, a Tea Party group.

In the 2010 mid-term elections, Tea Party opposition to President Barack Obama’s policies played a big role in slashing the Democrats’ majority in the 100-member Senate to just six seats and eliminating their majority in the House of Representatives.

With 23 of the 33 Senate seats up for grabs next year now held by Democrats, and a wave of public hostility to incumbents, Tea Party activists said they looked forward to more Republican gains in 2012.

“We’ll maintain the House without a problem. We absolutely have to take back the Senate and focus on that and not let presidential politics consume all of our time and energy,” said Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the California-based Tea Party Express Political Action Committee.

Some of the eight to 10 Senate seats seen as very competitive next year are in Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio, states where Tea Party groups had a big impact in 2010 and during state legislative sessions, fueling optimism about next year, Kibbe said.

“If the issues are the economy and jobs, the burden of spending and the national debt, those are swing issues that Tea Partiers care about most — there is a nice confluence in what motivates independent voters and what motivates Tea Partiers,” he said.

WORRIES ABOUT ROMNEY

Fueling the Tea Party’s disenchantment with the Republican presidential race are suspicions that front-runner Mitt Romney is too moderate and not committed to core conservative causes. The Tea Party favors lower spending and smaller government.

The former Massachusetts governor has been attacked by conservatives for introducing a healthcare program in the state that many say was a model for the sweeping healthcare overhaul enacted by Obama in 2010.

“People are definitely not rallying to Romney,” said Chris Littleton, co-founder of the Ohio Liberty Council, a coalition of about 80 Tea Party groups in Ohio, a swing state considered a must-win for any Republican presidential candidate.

“I cannot recall a single conversation I’ve had with anyone who is conservative and liberty-minded where that person supports Romney,” he said.

Some are shifting allegiance to Herman Cain, who has gained in recent polls and appeals to Tea Party activists with a plan to drastically overhaul the tax code, but Cain has yet to prove he can assemble the strong campaign team or attract the level of donations he would need to secure the nomination.

Romney’s campaign said his platform of reduced taxes, lower spending and limited government would appeal to Republicans, the Tea Party and even some Democrats, and that he would continue to reach out to all voters.

In the end, Tea Party voters are expected to put aside ideological differences with Romney if he does become the nominee, because their primary goal in next year’s presidential race is denying Obama a second term.

“The Tea Party to some extent, though not completely, was born in reaction to the Obama movement. Certainly their number one priority is going to be to beat Barack Obama in the fall. There’s no question about that,” said Doug Heye, a political consultant and former Republican National Committee spokesman.

Sal Russo, chief strategist and co-founder of the Tea Party Express, said he viewed all the Republican candidates as fiscally conservative enough for the Tea Party. Besides, he added, in the end the movement’s supporters want a candidate who can win.

“It certainly doesn’t do us any good to run and lose,” he said.

Source: Thomson Reuters

 

 
 
 
 

Doubtful social conservatives giving Romney chance

In News, Politics, Republican on October 8, 2011 at 9:36 am

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks to Citadel cadets and supporters during a campaign speech inside Mark Clark Hall on The Citadel campus in Charleston, S.C., Friday Oct. 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, AP

This year, pocketbook issues seem to matter more than pulpit preaching among cultural conservatives and at least some are willing to embrace Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, who they’ve long looked at skeptically.

“No one’s perfect,” says Larry Smith of Newport Beach, Calif., one of thousands of conservatives gathering in Washington this weekend to hear from the slate of GOP candidates at the annual Values Voters Summit. Smith cast the choice before him as a compromise, and says he’s leaning toward the former Massachusetts governor. Even though Romney has strayed from conservative orthodoxy on some social issues in the past, he still posts a strong record as a businessman.

“He has the skills to help us on this particular issue, at this particular time,” Smith said.

By that, he means the economy, with its stubbornly high 9.1 percent unemployment rate and sluggish growth.

If interviews with conference attendees are any indication, that’s what is giving Romney his best shot at winning over some of the social and Christian conservatives who he failed to attract in his first campaign in 2008 and is trying to make inroads with this year.

Romney was to speak to the group Saturday, a day after his chief rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, took the stage to strong applause and criticized Romney for his shifting position on abortion, without ever using Romney’s name.

“For some candidates, pro-life is an election-year slogan to follow the prevailing political winds,” Perry said in a speech that at times felt more sermon than political pleas.

But a pastor who endorsed and later introduced Perry quickly served up a reminder of Romney’s membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are commonly called Mormons.

“Rick Perry’s a Christian. He’s an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ,” said Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas. “Mitt Romney’s a good moral person, but he’s not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.”

Perry made clear that he disagrees with Jeffress.

Asked by reporters Friday night in Tiffin, Iowa, whether Mormonism is a cult, Perry replied, “No.”

The gathering came the same week that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie both announced they would not run for president, leaving donors and grass-roots conservatives up for grabs — and giving Romney an opportunity to try to cast himself as the candidate who can appeal to a broad swath of the GOP.

It’s a shift from four years ago, when Romney focused his campaign largely on social issues that would play well with this audience. It didn’t work; he couldn’t overcome skepticism of his Mormon faith and his record of reversing himself on issues like abortion rights and gay rights. And these voters aren’t a natural fit for Romney with others like Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — who have long championed their causes — in the race.

But many of the roughly two dozen interviewed indicated that because the GOP field lacks a candidate that perfectly fits their wish list, they were willing to consider backing someone who doesn’t stack up perfectly but who may have the strongest chance at beating President Barack Obama. Many said Romney may well fit the bill.

“If you go with your gut, that’s fine. But I would lean toward the person who is more electable,” said Johnny Lee, a 57-year-old federal worker from the Washington area. He is considering backing Romney, as well as Georgia business executive Herman Cain and Santorum. Among Lee’s many considerations is who would fare best at the ballot boxes against Obama.

“If you’re going with your values and there aren’t enough people who share those values, you’re not going to win the change in leadership this country needs,” Lee said. “And we need a change.”

At this venue at least, it seems that activists aren’t heeding Bachmann’s warnings not to settle for a candidate who isn’t rock solid on their issues.

“It’s time for the Republican Party to nominate someone who will lead the whole country,” said Chris Balkema, a 40-year-old Caterpillar employee from Channahon, Ill. “We don’t need to settle. But we need someone will lead the left, right and center of this country, while defending the Constitution.”

Balkema said that could be Romney, although he wasn’t ruling out others.

Even so, Bachmann — who is a favorite of tea partyers, home schooling parents and grassroots activists — pitched herself as a pure conservative voters need, and urged them not to choose a moderate candidate who might not share their values.

“Conservatives, we can have it all this year because Barack Obama will be a one-term president,” she said, bringing the audience to its feel late Friday evening. “Let’s finally have one of us in the White House.”

She then hinted at Romney’s changing shape on abortion rights and gay rights.

“You won’t find YouTube clips of me speaking in support of Roe vs. Wade. You won’t find me hemming and hawing when it comes to defining marriage as between one man and one woman.”

Some agree with her.

“We chose someone last time who was willing to cross the aisle on anything,” said Dwayne Owens, a 67-year-old from Southside, Ala., pointing to 2008’s unsuccessful presidential nominee Sen. John McCain. “We can’t nominate someone whose sole message is compromise. We need someone who is willing to get in a dogfight.”

Source: Associated Press

 

 
 
 
 

FACT CHECK: Obama claims miss some evidence

In Barak Obama, Democrats, News, Politics on October 7, 2011 at 10:02 am

President Barack Obama smiles during his news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct., 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

By JIM KUHNHENN, AP

Are President Barack Obama’s ideas for job creation really bipartisan as he claims? Not when the means for paying for them are put in the equation.

The president dodged various facts and and left some evidence in the dust in his latest challenge to Republicans to get behind his jobs program or offer a real alternative.

A look at some of the claims in his fast-paced news conference and how they compare with the facts:

OBAMA: “If it turns out that there are Republicans who are opposed to this bill, they need to explain to me, but more importantly to their constituencies and the American people, why they’re opposed, and what would they do.”

THE FACTS: While Republicans might not be campaigning on their opposition to Obama’s plan, they’ve hardly kept their objections a secret.

In a memorandum to House Republicans Sept. 16, House Speaker John Boehner and members of the GOP leadership said they could find common ground with Obama on the extension of certain business tax breaks, waiving a payment withholding provision for federal contractors, incentives for hiring veterans, and job training measures in connection with unemployment insurance.

They objected to new spending on public works programs, suggesting instead that Congress and the president work out those priorities in a highway spending bill. And they raised concerns about Obama’s payroll tax cuts for workers and small businesses, arguing that the benefits of a one-year tax cut would be short-lived. The memo also pointed out that reducing payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security, temporarily forces Social Security to tap the government’s general fund. And it opposed additional spending to prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers and other public workers.

_____

OBAMA: “Every idea that we’ve put forward are ones that traditionally have been supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.”

THE FACTS: Obama proposes to pay for his jobs bill by raising taxes, something traditionally opposed by Republicans and, in the form Obama proposed it, even some Democrats. Senate Democrats were so allergic to Obama’s approach, which relied largely on limiting deductions that can be taken by individuals making over $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000, that they’re eliminating it and replacing it with a new tax on millionaires.

In claiming bipartisan support for the components of his proposal, the president appears to be referring just to what the plan would do, not how it’s paid for, but that’s a crucial distinction he doesn’t make.

Some of tax-cutting proposals offered by Obama have received significant Republican support in the past. But some of the new spending he proposes has received only nominal Republican backing. Evidence of bipartisanship provided by the White House includes legislation last year that provided $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs. It won the support of only two Republican senators — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine and among the most moderate Republicans in Congress. Another example cited by the White House was his proposal last year to offer tax breaks to businesses that hire new workers — it passed the House 217-201 with six Republican votes.

____

OBAMA: “The answer we’re getting right now is: Well, we’re going to roll back all these Obama regulations… Does anybody really think that that is going to create jobs right now and meet the challenges of a global economy?”

THE FACTS: Well, yes, some think it will. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month submitted a jobs proposal to Obama that included a call to ease regulations on businesses. It specifically called for streamlining environmental reviews on major construction projects and to delay the issuance of some potentially burdensome regulations until the economy and employment have improved. In the letter, Chamber President Thomas Donohue also called on Congress to pass legislation that would require congressional approval of major regulations. The chamber did not indicate how many jobs such regulatory changes could create, but it said: “Immediate regulatory relief is required in order to begin moving $1 trillion-$2 trillion in accumulated private capital off of the sidelines and into business expansion.”

____

OBAMA: “We can either keep taxes exactly as they are for millionaires and billionaires, with loopholes that lead them to have lower tax rates, in some cases, than plumbers and teachers, or we can put teachers and construction workers and veterans back on the job.”

THE FACTS: True, “in some cases” wealthy people can exploit loopholes to make their tax rate lower than for people of middle or low income. In recent rhetoric, Obama had suggested it was commonplace for rich people to pay lower rates than others, a claim not supported by IRS statistics. But on Thursday, Obama accurately stated that it only happens sometimes.

In 2009, 1,470 households filed tax returns with incomes above $1 million yet paid no federal income tax, according to the IRS. Yet that was less than 1 percent of returns with incomes above $1 million. On average, taxpayers who made $1 million or more paid 24.4 percent of their income in federal income taxes; those making $100,000 to $125,000 paid 9.9 percent; those making $50,000 to $60,000 paid 6.3 percent. The White House argues that when payroll taxes — paid only on the first $106,800 of wages — are factored in, more middle class workers wind up with a higher tax rate than millionaires.

___

OBAMA: “China has been very aggressive in gaming the trading system to its advantage and to the disadvantage of other countries, particularly the United States. …. And currency manipulation is one example of it, or at least intervening in the currency markets in ways that have led their currency to be valued lower than the market would normally dictate. And that makes their exports cheaper and that makes our exports to them more expensive.”

THE FACTS: While Obama complained about China’s efforts to keeps its currency undervalued to gain trade advantages, his administration has repeatedly refused to brand China as a currency manipulator in a report that the Treasury Department is required to send to Congress twice a year.

Such a designation would trigger negotiations between the two countries and could ultimately lead to U.S. trade sanctions against China.

The administration has been reluctant to brand China a currency manipulator, as have past administrations, because the United States depends on China to buy U.S. Treasury securities to help finance America’s budget deficits. China owns $1.17 trillion in U.S. Treasury securities, making it the largest foreign holder of Treasury debt.

Sosurce: Associated Press

Perry once defended Confederate symbols

In News, Politics, Race on October 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

This image provided by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles shows the design of a proposed Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate. Eleven years ago, when the NAACP stepped up a campaign to remove the Confederate battle flag from statehouses and other government buildings across the South, it found an opponent in then Lt. Gov. Rick Perry. Perry argued that states should honor their history and decide on appropriate displays. A related issue may rise this fall when Texas decides whether to allow specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag. (AP Photo/Texas Department of Motor Vehicles)

By WILL WEISSERT, AP

Eleven years ago, when the NAACP stepped up a campaign to remove the Confederate battle flag from statehouses and other government buildings across the South, it found an opponent in Rick Perry.

Texas had a pair of bronze plaques with symbols of the Confederacy displayed in its state Supreme Court building. Perry, then lieutenant governor, said they should stay put, arguing that Texans “should never forget our history.”

It’s a position Perry has taken consistently when the legacy of the Civil War has been raised, as have officials in many of the other former Confederate states. But while defense of Confederate symbols and Southern institutions can still be good politics below the Mason-Dixon line, the subject can appear in a different light when officials seek national office.

For Perry, now Texas governor for 11 years and in the top tier of Republican presidential candidates, a racial issue is already dogging him.

He took criticism over the weekend for a rock outside the Texas hunting camp his family once leased that had the name Niggerhead painted on it. Perry’s campaign says the governor’s father painted over the rock to cover the name soon after he began leasing the site in the early 1980s and says the Perry family never controlled, owned or managed the property. But rival Herman Cain, the only black Republican in the race, says the rock symbolizes Perry’s insensitivity to race.

A related issue may rise this fall when Texas decides whether to allow specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag. The plates have been requested by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a nonprofit organization Perry has supported over the years. A state board he appointed will decide.

The NAACP says its initiative against “glorification” of slave-state symbols remains ongoing. “The romanticism around the Old South,” said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau. “It’s a view of history that ignores how racism became a tool to maintain a system of supremacy and dominance.”

Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner did not return messages seeking comment on the matter. But Granvel Block, the Texas Division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the organization appreciated Perry’s position on such issues.

“I would give him high praise for saying it,” Block said. “Honoring your ancestors, it’s something that the Bible teaches.”

The Confederate battle flag has been chief target for the NAACP. The organization called for a boycott of South Carolina in 2000 for flying the banner over its statehouse. The state moved the flag to a capitol memorial. In 2003, Georgia replaced its state flag, which included the Confederate battle standard, with one that combined other elements from previous state flags. Other institutions have scaled back their displays of Confederate heritage. The University of Mississippi retired Colonel Rebel as its on-field mascot.

In January 2000 the NAACP asked Texas to remove the Confederate battle flag from plaques in the entryway of a building housing the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, saying it undermined the notion of judicial equality. One of the 11-inch by 20-inch bronze plaques featured the seal of the Confederacy and the other the image of the battle flag and quotations from Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Perry wrote to the Sons of Confederate Veterans in March 2000 that, “although this is an emotional issue, I want you to know that I oppose efforts to remove Confederate monuments, plaques and memorials from public property.”

“I also believe that communities should decide whether statues or other memorials are appropriate for their community,” Perry wrote in the letter, one of several obtained by The Associated Press under a public information request. “I believe that Texans should remember the past and learn from it.”

He added, “We should never forget our history, but dwelling on the 19th century takes needed attention away from our future in the 21st century.”

Perry elaborated publically on the issue, saying, “I think you’ve got a slippery slope when you start saying we’re going to start taking down every plaque or monument.”

He wasn’t the only prominent Texan defending the plaques. Then-Gov. George W. Bush, himself running for president, initially said they should remain but then reversed himself and authorized the state’s General Services Commission to replace the plaques with new ones saying equal justice is available to all Texans “regardless of race, creed or color.”

The floor of the Texas Capitol’s rotunda still bears the seal of the Confederacy, and statues on the grounds memorialize Lee and Confederate soldiers. But civil rights organizations consider the battle flag the most objectionable symbol.

Public officials in Texas, as well as in the other Southern states, are called upon periodically to honor Confederate causes because related organizations observe its anniversaries. Block said the Sons of Confederate Veterans was founded in 1896 and has 2,500 members statewide. Also active is the Texas Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

In a 2005 letter, Perry welcomed attendees of a benefit hosted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “By learning about the past,” he wrote, “we honor our ancestors’ memories and contributions, and appreciate the people and events that preceded the present.” Perry’s great-great-grandfather David H. Hamilton fought at Gettysburg with the First Texas Infantry.

Two years later, Perry issued a “Message from the Governor” honoring Lawrence Sullivan “Sul” Ross on what would have been his 169th birthday. He noted Ross’ service as a Confederate brigadier general, two-time Texas governor and president of what became Texas A&M University, calling him “one of the greats on whose shoulders our modern day Texas rests.” The Sons of Confederate Veterans maintains a college scholarship fund in Ross’ honor — despite accusations that Ross was behind the murder of black prisoners of war in Mississippi.

Today, Block’s organization wants to use the Confederate flag license plate to raise money to pay for markers on Confederate soldiers’ graves. “I know that to some people it’s an issue,” he said. “But our purpose is to honor our ancestors and to educate the public on the true cause of the war.”

The state Department of Motor Vehicles board tied 4-4 in an April vote because one of its members, Ramsay Gillman of Houston, was absent. Gillman then died and Perry chose a new appointee, Raymond Palacios Jr. of El Paso.

Palacios declined to comment on the issue. Members won’t vote on the plate until at least Nov. 9. A similar request from the Sons of Confederate Veterans was denied two years ago, but the criteria have been expanded, opening the door for approval this time. Texas has approved 276 specialty plates.

Perry hasn’t commented. “This is a matter before the board,” said Lucy Nashed, a governor’s office spokeswoman.

Matt Glazer, executive director of Progress, Texas, a left-leaning advocacy group, said of Block’s organization: “If they want to put a sticker on their car, or fly the Confederate flag at their home or business, that’s up to them. But the state itself should not associate itself with this racist relic.”

Source:  Associated Press.

 

 
 
 
 

Panetta warns Israel against growing isolation

In Israel, News, Palestinian, Politics, Terrorism on October 3, 2011 at 9:27 am

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta answers questions aboard an Air Force plane over the Atlantic Ocean Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011. Panetta is traveling to the Middle East to meet with leaders on various issues related to the region. (AP Photo/Win McNamee, Pool)

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, AP

The continuing turmoil in the Middle East makes it crucial that Israel finds ways to communicate with other nations in the region if it’s ever going to enjoy peace and stability, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned in a blunt assessment.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday as he traveled to the Mideast and Europe, Panetta said the Jewish homeland is becoming increasingly isolated in the region. He said Israeli leaders need to restart negotiations with the Palestinians and work to restore relations with Egypt and Turkey.

“There’s not much question in my mind that they maintain that (military) edge,” Panetta said. “But the question you have to ask: Is it enough to maintain a military edge if you’re isolating yourself in the diplomatic arena? Real security can only be achieved by both a strong diplomatic effort as well as a strong effort to project your military strength.”

Panetta is scheduled to meet this week with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and then travel to a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. He will also go to Egypt, where he will meet with that nation’s new leaders.

His visit comes as Mideast negotiators push for a peace deal by the end of next year, amping up pressure for the resumption of long-stalled talks.

The Pentagon chief said Israel risks eroding its own security if it does not reach out to its neighbors.

“It’s pretty clear that at this dramatic time in the Middle East, when there have been so many changes, that it is not a good situation for Israel to become increasingly isolated. And that’s what’s happening,” he said.

Panetta said the most important thing now is for Israel and its neighbors “to try to develop better relationships so in the very least they can communicate with each other rather than taking these issues to the streets.”

His visit comes at a particularly critical and fragile time.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked the U.N. Security Council to recognize an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. The United States opposed the U.N. bid, saying there is no substitute for direct peace negotiations. But with Israel continuing to build settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Abbas says there is no point in talking.

Some 500,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

The United States, Britain, France and other council members are likely to try to hold up consideration of the application while they press for a resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Panetta is scheduled to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

His visit to Israel comes six months after his predecessor, Robert Gates, traveled to the region to meet with Israeli leaders and make the first journey to the West Bank to talk with Fayyad

Source:  The Associated Press.

 

 
 
 
 

Shutdown averted, but deep differences linger

In Democrats, Politics, Republican on September 28, 2011 at 9:26 am

 

Senator Mitch McConnell (R) Kentucky

By TOM RAUM, AP

It’s the third time this year a government budget crisis has been averted just in the nick of time. And the public seems plain fed up with the nonstop partisanship that led to the nerve-racking close calls.

Rising public disgust turns up in poll after poll showing Congress’ approval ratings have sunk far lower than those of President Barack Obama, whose own numbers have been weighed down by the teetering economy and dour employment numbers.

Yet the political grandstanding is likely to continue, even grow.

Because at the heart of every major standoff this year is a deep philosophical disagreement between the parties on the size and role of government. It encompasses sharp disagreements on spending cuts and taxes, and on whether deficit reduction or more spending to prod a flailing recovery is a higher priority. And these are arguments sure to reverberate more loudly as the presidential election nears.

“I think this thing continues until next November’s election,” said James Thurber, a political scientist at American University. “With the campaign started, it’s very hard to stop it.”

As to the current state of political polarization, Thurber said: “There are very few people in the middle who are moderate and who can bring about compromises. And that creates an environment where you have this crisis approach to even fairly small issues.”

Some 82 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job, according to a Gallup poll released this week. It also shows record or near-record criticism of elected officials in general, government handling of domestic problems, the scope of government power and government waste of money.

The poll results may reflect the shared political power arrangement, with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate and Republicans controlling the House. “Partisans on both sides can thus find fault with government without necessarily blaming their own party,” said Lydia Saad, senior Gallup poll editor.

A budget deadlock that raised the risk of a government shutdown this weekend was apparently broken as the Senate approved a short-term measure to fund the government through Nov. 18, and the House was expected to follow suit.

But it will only get harder from now on.

The most recent fight had been over a relatively small amount of emergency disaster aid money and whether it should be offset — as tea-party influenced House Republicans want — by corresponding cuts in other programs. In November, the entire budget for the budget year getting under way Oct. 1 will be under review. The stakes will be huge.

Also, the budget talks seem certain to be complicated by the shape of any proposal put on the table by a 12-member bipartisan supercommittee, which faces a Nov. 23 deadline for coming up with $1.5 trillion in deficit-reduction measures to take effect in 2013.

Both sides have dug in their heels. Obama’s speeches have taken on more partisan, combative tones in recent weeks. And he has proposed a jobs stimulus program that would be paid for, in part, by raising taxes on the wealthy.

Obama includes the whole GOP field of presidential aspirants in addition to directly criticizing GOP congressional leaders. “I urge all of you to watch some of these Republican debates. It’s a different vision about who we are, who we stand for,” he said earlier this week during a fundraising tour of Western states.

At the same time, House Speaker John Boehner has flatly declared tax increases “off the table.”

Members of Congress have seen their standing tumble in the eyes of the public after their squabbling brought the government to near calamity three times since April.

Then, Boehner and Obama reached a budget deal little more than an hour before a government shutdown was to begin. On Aug. 2, Congress agreed to legislation raising the government’s debt ceiling — its borrowing authority — just hours before Treasury was to run out of cash to pay all its bills, raising the risk of default.

The government continued to operate, but the squabbling cost the U.S. a downgrade in its credit rating anyway from Standard & Poor’s a few days later.

The rating service removed for the first time the triple-A rating the U.S. had held for 70 years. Among other things, it blamed the weakened “effectiveness, stability and predictability” of U.S. policymaking and political institutions at a time of rising economic challenges.

In an Associated Press-GFK poll last month, some 53 percent of all of those surveyed said they would like to see someone else win their congressional district.

The poll found that 46 percent approve of how Obama is doing his job, down from 52 percent in June. But it also showed congressional approval at a new low, 12 percent, with disapproval at 87 percent, a new high.

The core philosophical dispute that has been at the heart of every major domestic-policy standoff this year is the GOP insistence that reducing the deficit is the priority and that it must be done with spending cuts alone, not tax increases. Democrats want shorter-term spending to prop up the sagging recovery combined with a mix of longer-term tax increases and spending cuts to trim deficits.

It’s not only divided the two parties in Washington, “it pretty much splits the country in half,” said Michael Dimock, associate research director at the Pew Research Center. He said that when people were asked “what should be the priority, reducing the budget deficit or spending to help the economy to recover,” Americans were nearly evenly divided with just under 50 percent on each side.

At the same time, “there’s a great deal of frustration in the public right now, and it’s crossing party lines. There’s a sense that neither side is really working toward solving the country’s problems but trying to win some kind of political game,” Dimock said. “I think it’s probably affecting both political parties.”

Source: Associated Press

 

 
 
 
 
%d bloggers like this: