Archive for December, 2011

U.S. military mission in Iraq is now officially at an end

A war that began with “shock and awe” — a war that never should have begun in the first place — ended much more quietly today.

From the Washington Post:

“BAGHDAD — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta paid solemn tribute on Thursday to an “independent, free and sovereign Iraq” and declared the official end to the Iraq war, formally wrapping up the U.S. military’s 8-and-a- half-year mission in the country.

“After a lot of blood spilled by Iraqis and Americans, the mission of an Iraq that could govern and secure itself has become real,” Panetta said at a ceremony at Baghdad ‘s international airport. “To be sure, the cost was high – in blood and treasure for the United States, and for the Iraqi people. Those lives were not lost in vain. ”

The final U.S. death toll was 4,487, with roughly 4,000 of those fatalities occurring after the infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech. The last U.S. soldier to die in Iraq was David Emanuel Hickman, an Army specialist from …

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The Keystone pipeline will NOT create 20,000 new jobs

“Millions of Americans are desperate for jobs, and no single project promises more of them than the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, which would run from Canada to the Gulf Coast…. As the largest shovel-ready infrastructure project in the U.S., Keystone XL was expected to create 20,000 new jobs right away.”

– U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar and
Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell

And that, of course, is false, and Lugar and McConnell have good reason to know it is false. The Keystone XL Pipeline, the centerpiece of the latest standoff in Washington, will not produce 20,000 shovel-ready jobs. Even TransCanada, the company pushing the pipeline’s construction, now acknowledges that it is false.

The number that the company likes to throw around is now 13,000 direct construction jobs, but that too is misleading. When challenged, the company acknowledges that it is counting what you might call “job years.” In other words, TransCanada believes the project will produce 6,500 jobs that last for …

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Mitt’s problem: Just 29 percent of GOP calls him conservative

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll is out this morning, and its results add hard numbers to the picture of the GOP race sketched out in the column I posted earlier. The divergence of viewpoints between voters in the GOP primary and those of Americans in general is significant.

wsjpoll

In a two-man primary race, Newt Gingrich crushes Mitt Romney among Republican voters by a 23-point margin. That’s because nearly two-thirds of GOP voters view Romney as being either liberal or moderate. Only 29 percent view him as somewhat or very conservative. By contrast, 57 percent view Gingrich as conservative.

But once you leave RepublicanWorld and enter the mainstream, things change. If the election were held today, President Obama would crush Gingrich by 11 points and probably more. That’s because swing voters — defined in the poll as those who say they are open to voting to candidates of both parties — dislike Gingrich by a 3-1 margin. Just 16 percent view him favorably, compared to 48 percent …

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In embracing Newt, conservatives take walk on the wild side

Note: This contains extensive material included in a blog post published Saturday. It is published here as the electronic version of today’s AJC column:

The conservative movement has made its sentiments clear: It does not want to marry the nice, safe boy across the street with the perfect hair and perfect manners. Against the pleas of its parents in Washington, it wants a bad boy, and that bad boy is named Newt Gingrich.

It’s hard to exaggerate the panic that a potential Gingrich nomination sets off among GOP leaders. Given what some of them are saying on the record and in public — words such as “unstable” and “unprincipled” –  you can only imagine what they say in private. But in many ways, they have brought this upon themselves.

If you teach your followers that compromise equals defeat — if that all-or-nothing approach becomes central to your movement’s identity — how can you demand that they accept compromise incarnate in the person of Mitt Romney? Is that not …

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Economy exceeding economists’ predictions

From the Wall Street Journal:

“The U.S. economy is on track to grow faster in the current quarter than any time since the second quarter of last year, though several risks—including a possible meltdown in Europe—are clouding the outlook.

In recent days, a number of economists have increased estimates for fourth-quarter growth, pointing to stronger-than-expected readings on trade, consumer spending and other gauges. Forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers on Friday raised its estimate to 3.7%, from 3.5%, while Goldman Sachs has raised its target to 3.4% from the 2.5% it was predicting two weeks ago.

This pace of growth is much stronger than economists were expecting a few months ago, when Europe’s sovereign-debt problems started getting worse. … The stock market has made up much of its losses, although new worries about Europe sent indexes lower Monday, and consumer sentiment has improved, prompting consumers to dip into savings and continue spending. Companies are not only …

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Analysis confirms Gingrich tax plan a massive boon to the wealthy

A month ago, as Newt Gingrich began to rise in the polls, I did an informal assessment of his tax-cut plan, concluding that “every change that Gingrich proposes would overwhelmingly benefit those Americans who are already at the very top of the economic scale” and that it would produce significantly less revenue, forcing major reductions in Social Security, Medicare and other programs that are crucial to the middle class.

(In brief, the Gingrich plan would eliminate the capital gains tax, cut the corporate income tax to 12.5 percent, eliminate the estate tax and offer an optional flat-rate tax of 15 percent for those taxpayers who would benefit from it.)

The Tax Policy Center has now released a more detailed, in-depth assessment of those proposed changes. According to the TPC, 82.9 percent of the Gingrich tax cuts would indeed go to those making $119,546 or more. The top 1 percent — those making $622,809 or more — would collect 50 percent of the tax cut, enjoying an average …

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In N.H., Romney runs afoul of ‘live free or die’ spirit

The following exchange took place earlier today between Mitt Romney and a gentleman seated at a diner in Manchester, N.H. (short ad precedes video):

The man in the plaid jacket and Vietnam Veterans hat is 63-year-old Bob Garon. When reporters debriefed him after the discussion, they asked him why the issue of gay marriage was important to him.

“Because I’m gay, all right?” Garon said. “And I happen to love a man just like you probably love your wife.”

In fact, Garon is married under New Hampshire law to the man who was sitting across the table from him at the diner, Bob Lemire. They are regulars at the diner, where patrons and staff apparently refer to them as “the Bobs.”

The now-Republican N.H. Legislature is attempting to repeal the law legalizing the Bobs’ marriage. So when an unsuspecting Romney told Bob No. 1 that he support the repeal attempt, Garon was not exactly pleased.

“I have no problem with his beliefs, but I do not think he should throw it on …

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Mitt Romney lost a bet that he never got a chance to make

romneybet

When Mitt Romney reached out his hand in Saturday night’s debate, offering to shake on a $10,000 bet with Rick Perry, you knew that moment would be the one that would stick. After all, people don’t watch the debates for dry discussions of policy. They want to see the candidates in unscripted moments, under pressure, in hopes they will reveal something about their character and personality. That bet offer was such a moment.

I’ll leave it to others to wrangle about what, if anything, that scenario told us about Romney and instead focus on the facts of the case. At issue was whether in his book “No Apology,” Romney had recommended the health-insurance mandate as a model to the rest of the country. Perry said he had; Romney said he hadn’t.

The folks at FactCheck.org and at Politifact have concluded that Perry would have lost that bet, but I’m not convinced. Here’s the original portion of Romney’s book, with the sentence in question highlighted, so you can judge for yourself:

romneyperry

It …

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Political landscape may be shifting — for now — away from GOP

The Senate race between Republican Sen. Scott Brown and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts will probably be the most closely watched in the nation, and for good reason. The contest has already proved to be a testing ground for themes expected to play out nationally, and in several cases, where Warren has pioneered successfully, the Obama campaign has followed. (A recent poll puts Warren up by seven points over Brown).

So it was interesting that last week, Karl Rove’s Crossroads operation started running the following ad in Massachusetts:

Warren is probably the woman most despised by Wall Street, in part because of her toughness with the banks in overseeing the TARP program. As The New York Times recently reported, Wall Street firms have already donated more than $1 million to Brown’s campaign in hopes of defeating her.

“Of the 20 companies that accounted for the most campaign donations to Mr. Brown, about half were prominent investment or securities firms …

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Newt Gingrich is GOP’s Frankenstein monster come to life

The panic of the GOP’s Washington establishment has become, well, entertaining. The conservative movement that they have designed and programmed so carefully is in the process of going rogue on them, and that rogue has a name: Newt Gingrich.

But they have brought this on themselves. He is their creation.

If you indoctrinate your members to believe that compromise equates to defeat — if that becomes a core principle in your movement’s identity — how can you demand they compromise by accepting Mitt Romney as their nominee? Is that not defeat on the most important decision the party can make?

If you tell them that being Republican requires obedience to every single tenet of Republican doctrine — George Will this week noted that the party is “more ideologically homogenous than ever in 156 years of competing for the presidency” — how can you sell them on a candidate who is so transparently insincere in embracing that doctrine? Isn’t that a betrayal? (Gingrich is equally insincere; …

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