Archive for March, 2012

Experts: Attack on Iran might bring $6 gasoline

From The Hill:

“An Israeli military strike against Iranian nuclear enrichment sites would spike gas prices to between $5 and $6 per gallon, according to market analysts.

This would be well beyond the record highs hit in 2008, when nationwide average retail prices hit $4.11 per gallon, analysts say.

… The United States does not import oil from Iran, but a supply disruption would affect U.S. gasoline prices because they’re tethered to crude prices set on global markets.

…. (Suzanne) Maloney, the Brookings expert who is also a former State Department policy adviser, said military action against Iran would have a sustained effect on oil markets.

“We are looking at some immediate implications as a result of a strike, and then very possibly a kind of sustained series of crises over weeks and months … that would make it very difficult to control the volatility in the oil market,” she said.

It’s interesting how GOP candidates who act deeply concerned about the impact of gasoline …

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In Stevens case, federal prosecutors lied and deceived

In 2008, then-Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska was prosecuted and convicted on charges that he had failed to report free work that a politically connected contractor had performed on his home.

Eight days after his conviction in federal court, Stevens was defeated for re-election.

The late Sen. Ted Stevens, who died in a plane crash in 2010

The late Sen. Ted Stevens, who died in a plane crash in 2010

In early 2009, however, that conviction was overturned at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, which had discovered serious prosecutorial misconduct by attorneys in its Public Integrity Section.

A new independent investigation of that misconduct has now been released, and it is chilling. It concludes:

“The investigation and prosecution of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens were permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated Senator Stevens’s defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government’s key witness.”

The details of …

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Is the economy altering the political landscape?

The headline number out of last night’s Fox News poll of registered voters was the four-point lead enjoyed by President Obama over Mitt Romney. As we’ve seen, however, those numbers have a tendency to shift from poll to poll and day to day. The more interesting and relevant data come from deeper in the poll:

foxpoll

As you can see, Mitt Romney faces a 10-point favorability deficit; 39 percent view him favorably; 49 percent view him unfavorably. Among men his deficit is 8 points; among women voters, it is a whopping 15 percent. And ominously for Romney, the more people have seen of him, the worse his numbers have gotten.

As recently as October, in this same poll, only 36 percent viewed him unfavorably. In the five months since then, that number has jumped by 13 points.

Now, if you believe that’s a function of the long and at times degrading primary process, then Republicans have cause to hope that Romney can repair those numbers when — and if — he clinches the nomination. But if you …

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Newt: The smartest man in the Newt fan club

Fresh off his defeats in Alabama and Mississippi, Newt Gingrich is doing what he does best:

Wallow in self pity.

Here are portions of his remarks to a Lincoln Day Dinner crowd yesterday in suburban Chicago:

“The thing I find most disheartening about this campaign is the difficulty of talking about positive ideas on a large scale because the news media can’t cover it and candidly, my opponents can’t comprehend it….”

“Let me just talk for a second about technology and grand opportunities. Other than Ronald Reagan, I know of no Republican in my lifetime who’s been able to talk about this. That’s why I’m still running….”

“We are at the edge of such extraordinary opportunities and it is so hard to get this party to understand it….”

“And our political system is so methodically and deliberately stupid – and I use that word deliberately, the willful avoidance of knowledge — that it’s astonishing.”

To summarize:

Newt’s opponents? They’re stupid. Even …

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Gingrey: National malpractice cap needed

NOTE: Earlier this week, I criticized a proposal by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., that would impose a nationwide cap on malpractice awards, arguing that by overriding state laws and state courts Gingrey and other Republicans were violating their recently revived affection for states’ rights.

This is a response by Jen Talaber, Gingrey’s press secretary:

Firstly, this is a patient — not a Republican — issue which costs our health care system tens of billions of dollars annually. Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., is the lead co-sponsor on Rep. Gingrey’s medical malpractice reform legislation. President Obama himself has called repeatedly for medical malpractice reform, specifically at the 2009 AMA National Convention and in his 2011 State of the Union Address.

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that frivolous lawsuits cost between $70 and $126 billion per year. Because of this, more and more physicians are driven out of practice. This leaves patients, particularly …

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A different take on Romney and his Mormon heritage

Even some of his supporters might admit that Mitt Romney can come across as awkward and uncomfortable, as if he were trying too hard. At times, he can also seem a little too eager to please, particularly for someone with his record of leadership as a hard-driving CEO.

Romney 2012_Smit

There are a lot of plausible explanations for that perception. Maybe Romney’s obvious talents as a businessman and leader have placed him into a public sphere where by nature he is not fully comfortable. (He certainly doesn’t come across as a naturally gregarious politician.) Maybe the fact that he was raised in affluence makes it difficult for him to close the distance with those who did not share that experience.

I also think there’s another possibility. I’m going to plunge into dangerous, sensitive territory here and suggest that Romney’s public persona might also be a function of his Mormon faith and the persecution that it has been forced to endure.

To make that case, you have to begin at the beginning. The …

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Georgia Republicans stiff-arm Latino vote

Note: This post incorporates some material posted earlier on this blog. It is published here as the electronic version of today’s AJC column.

Voting largely along party lines, the Georgia Senate last week passed a bill that would bar illegal immigrants from attending any publicly funded college or technical institute in the state.

I’m just not sure why.

House Speaker David Ralston and Gov. Nathan Deal have already said they have no interest in making changes to current immigration law until the federal courts pass judgment on the major immigration bill passed in Georgia a year ago.

In addition, illegal immigrants are already barred from attending the state’s top five universities, where it was argued that they might take limited slots from a legal Georgia citizen. Extending that policy even to schools that do not have a competitive entrance requirement won’t help Georgia citizens a whit.

Conceivably, it might be about money, but it’s not. According to the university system, …

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Two more Santorum wins realign the race

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Mitt Romney came in third in both Alabama and Mississippi. As Newt Gingrich sensibly noted last night, how can you keep coming in third and remain the frontrunner?

For the moment, the answer to that question is money. Mitt still has a lot of it; his opponents still don’t. Money — not enthusiasm, not grass-roots support, but cold, hard money — remains Romney’s great advantage. And it’s telling that last night, while Rick Santorum was speaking to an excited crowd in Louisiana and Gingrich spoke from Alabama, Romney was on a plane, fleeing back to home territory in New York to collect still more money.

Gingrich himself, of course, had to win either Alabama or Mississippi last night, and preferably both. He won neither. Newt has been trying to portray himself as at least a strong regional candidate with support across the South, but Rick Santorum has now beaten Gingrich in Tennessee, Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi.

To paraphrase Newt, how can you call yourself a Southern …

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Romney still one elusive ‘big night’ away

UPDATE at 10:44: Santorum wins Mississippi as well. Two wins for the man in the sweater vest. No wins for the man now sweating up a storm.

UPDATE at 10:17: Alabama has now been called for Santorum. Mississippi remains too close to call. Romney is in third in both states, in part because it appears that his people weren’t excited enough about him to bother to vote for him.

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When the voting began on Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney was one good night away from consolidating his party’s support as the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

He turned out to be still one good night away when the voting ended. And tonight, one week later, he may remain that one good night away.

Alabama and Mississippi — two states where Republicans are likely to win regardless of what happens — are not exactly Romney territory (per capita sales of Grey Poupon in both states are probably pretty low.) If he were to pull off wins in both states, it would make his path to the nomination a lot easier …

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House attack on ‘death panel’ doubly hypocritical

House Republicans are pushing a bill that would abolish the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the mythical “death panel.”

IPAB, a 15-member panel of medical experts, is designed as a mechanism to control costs in Medicare and other federal health-care programs. If costs rise too quickly, IPAB steps in to implement policy and treatment changes to bring those costs back into line. By law, it is forbidden to recommend any form of health-care rationing. (Congress also reserves the power to override any IPAB recommendation).

Theoretically, Republicans ought to embrace cost-controlling mechanisms, especially in social programs such as Medicare. And in the past, they have. As Rick Santorum likes to point out, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney both included IPAB-like agencies as part of their own, supposedly conservative health-care reform proposals. The party’s opposition to IPAB can be explained only by the fact that it has proved so useful in scaring people to death about the “real …

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