Monday, September 03, 2012

Republican National Convention

I didn't watch the convention. I figured it would just annoy me and I'd be able to catch anything interesting online afterwards. I also figured I'd prefer reading articles and fact checks. The only thing I caught live was most of Clint Eastwood's speech after seeing tweets from Chris Hayes. So here are the better articles I saw:

Ezra Klein, Republican National Convention: Five thoughts on day one. He found it small-minded ("we built that"), dishonest ("We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers"), incoherent (Ann Romney talking about love, Chris Christie speaking against it), and ultimately meaningless.

He adds Wonkbook: Everything you need to know about day one of the Republican National Convention With some quotes and quick reactions to the various speeches.

Dylan Matthews, Republicans hate Obama’s defense cuts. The trouble is, they voted for them. "In his speech tonight, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) decried Obama for cutting defense, saying, “We can’t afford another $500 billion in cuts to our defense budget — on top of the nearly $500 billion in cuts that the president is already making…And yet, the president is playing no leadership role in preventing this crippling blow to our military." There’s just one problem: John McCain, and most other Republicans in the House and Senate, voted for the cuts in question.... So attacking Obama for taking “no leadership role” in reversing the cuts is a bit strange. He can’t reduce the cuts. Congress can."

Ezra Klein, A very strange argument for Mitt Romney. Chris Christie and Paul Ryan basically said the same thing, we need leaders who make tough choices and don't compromise their principles based on polls. But Klein points out how poorly this description matches Mitt Romney.

"Here is what Romney, so far in this campaign, has said. No changes to any entitlement programs for any seniors for the next 10 years. No specifics on how quickly his Medicare vouchers will grow for future seniors. No specifics on which tax breaks he’ll eliminate in order to offset the multi-trillion dollar cost of his tax cuts. No specific plan naming the cuts he’ll make to reach his $7 trillion target. No specifics on how he’ll equalize tax treatment of employer and individual health care. It is a campaign based on the principle of “not us, not now. “Real leaders do not follow polls,” Christie continued. “Real leaders change polls. And perhaps they do. But so far, the Romney campaign appears to have followed quite a number of polls."

And of course there was a lot about fact-checking Paul Ryan's speech. Let's start with
  • "Accused President Obama’s health care law of funneling money away from Medicare “at the expense of the elderly.” In fact, Medicare’s chief actuary says the law “substantially improves” the system’s finances, and Ryan himself has embraced the same savings.
  • Accused Obama of doing “exactly nothing” about recommendations of a bipartisan deficit commission — which Ryan himself helped scuttle.
  • Claimed the American people were “cut out” of stimulus spending. Actually, more than a quarter of all stimulus dollars went for tax relief for workers.
  • Faulted Obama for failing to deliver a 2008 campaign promise to keep a Wisconsin plant open. It closed less than a month before Obama took office.
  • Blamed Obama for the loss of a AAA credit rating for the U.S. Actually, Standard & Poor’s blamed the downgrade on the uncompromising stands of both Republicans and Democrats."

These five things are repeated and expanded on by Dan Amira, David Weigel, and Jonathan Cohn. Dylan Matthews lists a few more things wrong with Ryan's speech, The true, the false, and the misleading: Grading Paul Ryan’s convention speech. Kevin Drum thinks We Should Focus on Deception, Not Lying.

Ezra Klein goes much further in A not-very-truthful speech in a not-very-truthful campaign which is really worth reading in its entirety.

"But Ryan’s claims weren’t even arguably true. You simply can’t say the president hasn’t released a deficit reduction plan. The plan is right here. You simply can’t say the president broke his promise to keep your GM plant open. The decision to close the plant was made before he entered office — and, by the way, the guy at the top of your ticket opposed the auto bailout. You simply can’t argue that the Affordable Care Act was a government takeover of the health-care system. My doctor still works for Kaiser Permanente, a private company that the government does not own. You simply can’t say that Obama, who was willing to follow historical precedent and sign a clean debt ceiling increase, caused the S&P downgrade, when S&P clearly said it was due to congressional gridlock and even wrote that it was partly due to the GOP’s dogmatic position on taxes.

Oh, and here’s one we missed: “You would think that any president, whatever his party, would make job creation, and nothing else, his first order of economic business. But this president didn’t do that. Instead, we got a long, divisive, all-or-nothing attempt to put the federal government in charge of health care.” The stimulus — which was the administration’s major job creation package — came before health care. It was their first priority. That’s simply inarguable.

After rereading Ryan’s speech, I went back to Sarah Palin’s 2008 convention address. Perhaps, I thought, this is how these speeches always are. But Palin’s criticisms, agree or disagree, held up. “This is a man who has authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform — not even in the state Senate.” True. She accused Obama of wanting to “make government bigger” and of intending to “take more of your money.” That’s not how the Obama campaign would have explained its intentions, but the facts are the facts, and they did have plans to grow the size of government and raise more in tax revenues. Palin said that “terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay” and “he wants to meet them without preconditions,” which was true enough."

"All this is true irrespective of your beliefs as to what is good and bad policy, or which ticket you prefer. Quite simply, the Romney campaign isn’t adhering to the minimum standards required for a real policy conversation. Even if you bend over backward to be generous to them — as the Tax Policy Center did when they granted the Romney campaign a slew of essentially impossible premises in order to evaluate their tax plan — you often find yourself forced into the same conclusion: This doesn’t add up, this doesn’t have enough details to be evaluated, or this isn’t true."

Ed Kilgore and James Fallows have followup thoughts in Blazing New Trails and Paul Ryan and the Post-Truth Convention Speech respectively.

And then there was Clint Eastwood. As I said, I caught the end of it and I couldn't tell if he was drunk or senile. It was odd and sad. It's certainly the case that the next day people were talking about Eastwood's speech and not Romney's, which is exactly what shouldn't have happened. And then the Romney campaign threw him under the bus. Tom Scocca wrote The Assassination of Clint Eastwood by the Coward Mitt Romney.

"Eastwood's remarks, aides reportedly told the Times, were not rehearsed. That whole business of haranguing an invisible Obama, represented by an empty chair? "Initially, there were no plans for Mr. Eastwood to take a chair onstage as a prop. But at the last minute, the actor asked the production staff backstage if he could use one, but did not explain why. 'The prop person probably thought he was going to sit in it,' a senior aide said."

Again, this is the campaign's defense: In advance of the candidate's biggest public speech to date, at the climax of a tightly orchestrated multiple-day political performance, Team Romney sent an actor out to wing it on national television. They screwed up the un-screwuppable. This was like having one of the featured guests at the State of the Union drop his trousers on camera. If you botch that, how are you going to execute the more complicated constitutional duties? Mitt Romney can't handle Clint Eastwood trying to do him a favor, and he wants to take on unfriendly negotiations with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Vladimir Putin?"

And then came Romney's speech. said, "In a speech heavy on anecdotal history but short on policy details, Mitt Romney avoided major falsehoods in making his case to the American public while accepting the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention...In Romney’s case, we found a few bits of exaggeration and puffery. He exaggerated the loss in family income that has occurred under Obama, for example, including 13 months of losses that actually occurred before the president took office. And he made a back-handed accusation that Obama has raised taxes on middle-class taxpayers, when in fact the president has lobbied for and signed several temporary reductions."

Ezra Klein wondered Romney’s speech: Where was the policy?

"1. We heard precious little about Mitt Romney’s plans for the country. By my count, Barack Obama’s 2008 convention speech spent 768 words describing his domestic and economic policies. Romney’s speech spent 260 words. There was almost no mention — and absolutely no description — of his budget, tax, health care or Medicare plans.

2. The only policy idea he described in any detail was his five-point plan “to create 12 million new jobs.” The plan is more domestic energy production, more free trade agreements, more skills development, more deficit reduction, and cutting taxes and regulations. It is difficult to see how these policies — most of which would take some time to work — would address the jobs crisis we’re in right now. But perhaps they don’t have to. Romney’s target of 12 million jobs over the next four years happens to be the same number of jobs the economic forecasting firm Moody’s Analytics expects us to add even without major policy changes.

6. Romney’s speech included a number of riffs at odds with his policies. For instance: “Nearly one out of six Americans is living in poverty. Look around you. These are not strangers. These are our brothers and sisters, our fellow Americans.” There is simply no way, given the nature of Romney’s budget promises, that programs for the poor won’t be slashed to the bone. Similarly, he spent some time extolling the virtues of NASA, but it’s also hard to imagine that program surviving the 40 percent cut to all non-Medicare, non-Social Security, non-defense spending that Romney’s budget envisions.

11. All in all, Romney’s speech was…fine. I doubt he did himself any harm. And I’m sure he’ll get some sort of a convention bump. But it felt like a missed opportunity for him to close the deal. The American people already know that they’re not happy with the economy. Tonight was Romney’s chance to persuade them that he has a better way. But his speech really didn’t even try to do that."

Nate Silver said In Prudent Speech, Romney Seeks Role as Generic Republican. "Instead, in accepting the Republican nomination, Mr. Romney delivered a mostly well-written and reasonably well-delivered speech — but one that largely avoided policy substance or sweeping narrative, instead seeking to turn the election back into a referendum on President Obama."

"Instead, Mr. Romney’s strategy was pretty clear. He was seeking to fulfill the role of the generic Republican — a safe and unobjectionable alternative with a nice family and a nice career – and whose main credential is that he is not Mr. Obama, the Democratic president with tepid approval ratings and middling economic numbers."

While I would think a poll tested and approved speech would be damning to Republicans, I find Mike Konczal's analysis much more scathing, Romney Will Solve the Crisis with the Exact Same GOP Plan of 2008, 2006, 2004....

"So on August 30th, 2012, with unemployment at 8.3 percent and with a serious long-term unemployment problem, Mitt Romney gives the RNC acceptance speech. He outlines a plan to create 12 million jobs in the next four years. As Jared Bernstein pointed out, that's what Moody's says will be created anyway. But forget that. How will Mitt Romney do this? He has a five point plan...So his plan focuses on domestic energy production, school choice, trade agreements, cutting spending, and reducing taxes and regulations. This must be a set of priorities reflecting our terrifying moment of mass unemployment, right?"

Konczal then compares it to McCain's speech in 2008, Bush's speech in 2004 and Bush's State of the Union in 2006.

"But the same exact playbook is there in 2006, as it was in 2004 and 2008, and as it is in 2012. Domestic oil production, school choice, trade agreements, cut spending and reduce taxes and regulations -- it's been the conservative answer to times of deep economic stress, times of economic recovery, times of economic worries, and times of economic panic. Which is another way of saying that the Republicans have no plan for how to actually deal with this specific crisis we face."

The Washington Post makes available The full Republican platform and Ezra Klein explains Why you should read the Republican Party platform.

"The Republican platform takes up a consequential 62 pages. The section on economic recovery, for example, is quite detailed about the party’s reigning philosophy of economic growth and how to achieve it. The main problem it cites is too much government; the solution is to cut spending, cut regulations and unleash the private sector to perform its wonders...What’s notable about this is how unrelated it is to our current predicament....The virtue of these [other] theories is that each addresses what’s actually happening in the labor market — why unemployment is above 8 percent today when it was below 6 percent just a few years ago. The Republican Party’s explanation doesn’t. In fact, long-run projections of the size of government are not very different today than they were before Obama became president, and the economy began tanking well before the Republicans were out of power."

It's a 62 page pdf and not a short read. I'll get to it later this week, in the mean time Brad Plumer points out The 10 oddest items in the GOP platform.

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