Bill’s reaction: The “Mitt” documentary

Mitt_filmI watched the “Mitt” documentary. I don’t think it really changed my opinion of Mitt Romney particularly — perhaps because I’m from Massachusetts and already had a strongly held negative opinion about him rather than a vaguely negative opinion based in national media caricatures. I obviously was aware he was a person behind closed doors. That doesn’t have much to do with his bad policies and record.

What I did take away from it was how strongly Mitt Romney believed even in the moment of his (perceived) ‘surprise’ defeat that Pres. Obama was literally destroying the country in fall of “great nations” terms and believed America would reach an irreparable “tipping point” in “5 years” because of Obama’s policies. Mitt’s a relatively moderate and reasonable person, at least by comparison to most national elected Republicans these days, and even he had bought into that notion. (And in the documentary at least, a couple months earlier, Mitt and Ann were passionately discussing tax burdens on small businesses as a reason to win, rather than a perceived need to avert doomsday.) That’s pretty stunning and disturbing.

I think maybe the costs (personal, financial, emotional) of running for office have reached such intense levels that the only way you can convince yourself to keep going through it all is not only to megalomaniacally believe that only you can do the job (as most political candidates have long seemed to believe), but also that the other person will be so bad at it that it will be something the community/state/nation can’t recover from it.

In other words, to run for president these days, you can’t just have a messiah complex but a sincere conviction that the end-times are nigh. Which meshes perfectly with the presently now-mainstreamed (!) thought-currents rippling and roiling through the Republican Party. But even if it didn’t, that kind of divisive framing of campaigns is only going to fuel the toxic cycle that keeps producing worse and worse candidates and leaders at so many levels of government. There will be no good and decent people left on the campaign trail.

The smaller takeaway (as other people have observed) is: Wow, they really were delusional by the final month of the campaign and literally didn’t understand how the electoral math/map was going for them or needed to be handled. To which I would add: Can you imagine a Mitt Romney presidency if the “bubble” around him was that impervious to reality and basic structural facts that politics couldn’t alter?

Confirmed: Ron Paul’s 2012 team bribed a state senator

After a guilty plea this week, we now have confirmation that Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign bribed an elected official $73,000.

A former Iowa state senator pleaded guilty Wednesday to receiving and concealing payments in exchange for switching his support from one presidential candidate to another in the 2012 election, the Justice Department said.

The former lawmaker, Kent Sorenson, resigned from the Iowa Senate last year after an investigation found that he probably violated ethics rules by taking money from presidential campaigns.

Mr. Sorenson, 42, of Milo, Iowa, had been the state chairman for the presidential campaign of Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, but then switched his support to former Representative Ron Paul of Texas just days before the state’s caucus.

In a statement filed with his plea agreement, Mr. Sorensen admitted that he agreed to switch his allegiance in exchange for $73,000 in payments.

 
Please tell me more about Congressman Paul’s integrity and principles and blah blah blah. Though I suppose that buying elected officials is very free-market and all that.

The fallout began Friday night, as a Paul family insider, Jesse Benton, was forced to resign as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign manager in Kentucky.

Benton has worked in high-ranking positions in Rand Paul’s first Senate bid in 2010 and Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign, and he has married into the family, as well. It’s not known whether Benton himself knew about the bribe, but there would be a lot of questions either way, and so he had to go. If he’s cleared, I’m guessing he’ll be back for Sen. Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential campaign team, which he had already been slated to join before this scandal broke.

Thanks, Obama: Crimea Edition

I’ve noticed that the U.S. conservatives — including sore losers John McCain and Mitt Romney, but also many many others — who are pounding their fists and tearing their hair over the Obama’s Administration’s purportedly pitiful, pathetic, terrible, underwhelming, horrible, ineffective (etc) response to the Crimea takeover … have been conspicuously careful not to call outright for a military conflict with Russia over the matter.

Can anyone point out where in all their literal lip-curling displays of disgust at the President that they have suggested anything substantive that would be a better response, in their eyes? I think I’ve seen vague mentions of bringing Ukraine et al into NATO (which I think is a terrible idea), but otherwise I can’t think of anything I’ve seen them suggesting as an alternative to the administration’s course of action. 

Update, 9:30 PM:
David W. Wise has an excellent new article in The Globalist (my employer, though I was not involved in editing it) on the same question I posed above: “Why Crimea Is Not the Product of U.S. Weakness”

It is currently fashionable in Republican circles and in cable TV talk shows to argue that, first, President Obama’s foreign policy projected an aura of weakness, which was then, second, exploited by President Putin with aggressive and illegal moves in Crimea.

The problem with this narrative is that, while convenient, it is also patently untrue. Russia in general and Putin in particular, operate under the power politics rules of international affairs. They will thus act according to perceived threats to the security interests of the Russian state.

Unless President Obama had been willing to use military force, an ill-advised course, there was probably nothing the United States could have done to deter Putin’s actions in Crimea once Ukrainian President Yanokovych was deposed and had departed.
[…]
Let us […] go back a few years to 2008 when Bush, Cheney and the neoconservatives were in power. They talked tough and backed it up in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also abrogated the ABM treaty and ramped up defense spending.

Yet, in 2008 the same President Putin who recently sent unmarked troops into Ukraine did something as unsavory. He invaded Georgia to within miles of its capital and recognized the independence of two breakaway Georgia regions.

And yet, the Republicans – with their emphasis on an always muscular foreign policy – stood by relatively idly. Did Republicans think that Putin acted out of anything other than his cold-blooded calculation of Russia’s interest? Or did they believe then that the Bush/Cheney team’s “weakness” invited Putin’s action in Georgia?

No, they didn’t. But evidently, different rules of foreign policy calculations and interpretations apply depending on who’s in office. That may be effective politics, but hardly adds up to a serious policy argument.

 
Wise also discusses at length how Bill Clinton and George W. Bush’s pushes to expand NATO into the former Russian imperial heartland made Russia feel threatened, encircled, and under siege — something I discussed previously. Their reactions now can arguably seen as new defensive measures against exactly the aggressive American hawkishness John McCain and others have advocated.

Russia’s present course may partially be an effort to restore a defensive buffer zone around Russia itself, much as the larger Soviet Union insisted on indirectly occupying East Germany and much of Eastern Europe to prevent a third total war homeland invasion that century.

But, again, as Wise notes, much of the criticism has nothing to do with Russia and everything to do with the occupant of the White House: “evidently, different rules of foreign policy calculations and interpretations apply depending on who’s in office.”

In particular, we know exactly where John McCain’s criticisms stem from. If it were just about Russia he wouldn’t speak with such audible disdain and disrespect for the president. He was doing that long before it was about Crimea.