David Weigel

The 2012 campaign got off to a hopeful start in the never-ending battle between truth and cynicism.  When the Romney campaign put up an ad last November that took a 2008 line of Barack Obama’s blatantly out of context—“If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose,” a line that was paraphrasing a John McCain adviser—the political press corps jumped all over it, and essentially shamed the Romney campaign into backing off that attack, no easy thing to do given that Romney advisers initially defended the ad with an “anything goes” breeziness.

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Pretty much all previews of Tuesday’s recall election in Wisconsin are framing it as a precursor of the November election, and declaring that a win for Scott Walker, the Republican incumbent who is up for recall, would necessarily bode terribly for Barack Obama in Wisconsin and beyond. I don’t buy it. And that goes the other way, too—I don’t think Democrats should take away too much optimism for their fall prospects if Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett pulls off an upset win.

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Devotee though I am of Mad Men, I haven't had a chance to catch up with the first two episodes of its new season, so I'm hearing second-hand that Henry Francis, the aide to New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller who earlier rescued Betty from her marriage to Don (and now kind of regrets it because Betty's such a head case) last night--which is to say, in 1966, when this new season is set--called Michigan Gov. George Romney "a clown." Francis is shown saying into a telephone, "Well, tell Jim his honor's not going to Michigan.

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Back in October, I went up to Cambridge, Massachusetts to watch the eighth Republican primary debate of the season with Mark McKinnon, the Republican media strategist who had served as debate coach for George W. Bush, John McCain, and Sarah Palin. I was interested in McKinnon’s professional assessment of a Republican field whose succession of frontrunners, from Tim Pawlenty to Herman Cain, had nearly all been made or unmade by debate performances. At the time, Rick Perry was hurtling toward the abyss, Cain was bafflingly ascendant, and Mitt Romney was performing as advertised.

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The trouble Herman Cain is experiencing with Politico’s scoop on an alleged past settlement of sexual harassment charges—as well as his initial reaction to it—was, in many respects, predictable. Ever since the pizza executive’s improbable rise to the top of Republican presidential polls, there have been vague but menacing predictions that the new scrutiny he would face could quickly burst the bubble of his candidacy. Likewise, Cain’s pose as a victim of a politically, and perhaps racially, motivated smear was also predictable, but could prove remarkably effective.

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&c

-- Anthony Julius reviews Niall Ferguson's new book. -- Alex Wagner asks, "Has the White House gone tone deaf?" -- Marc Ambinder looks at the political and economic possibilities for a payroll tax holiday. -- David Weigel warns Democrats not to be overconfident about defeating the craziest Republican nominees.

Paleo Wacko

In 1984, Ron Paul ran for the United States Senate. It was an audacious gamble. Paul, who represented Texas’s twenty-second congressional district, had to give up his safe House seat to compete in the state’s Republican Senate primary.

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Six states are currently considering some form of birther-inspired legislation. Sounds like harmless loonery, right?

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Interesting interview by David Weigel: "He had fundraisers, he had meetings, all in the suburbs -- the white suburbs," said Hasney, who attended one of those events. "He had nothing in the district. We got him elected. Then, he goes and says 'but I have to represent my district,' which is all liberal, giveaway, spread-the-wealth, welfare, black. We thought he would try to change the demographics of that district by supporting things that were not giveaway things. I wouldn't necessarily call "spread the wealth" a racist codeword.

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Well, no. Obviously. But it looks increasingly as though the forged Kenyan birth certificate released by birther Orly Taitz on Sunday may have been created by a mischievous Obama supporter:   David Weigel has more here. --Christopher Orr

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