Hither and yon
June 17, 2011By Dick Polman
I'm broadcasting today from a coffee shop high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, on the cusp of a much-welcomed vacation. I'll be offline all next week, returning here on Monday, June 27. But before I go, let's clean out the frig:
Democrats jumped on Mitt Romney yesterday when he met with some jobless Floridians and declared that he too is out of work. (In his jocular words, "I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed.”) Mitt critics cited this episode as proof that he's insensitive to the plight of the non-working stiff. I wouldn't go quite that far. He just seems to be a tad socially awkward (evidence of this trait has been mounting). I'm sure he didn't mean to insult the jobless folks, but he would be wise to watch his words more carefully. Voters like candidates who have the common touch, and it may not sit well with them to hear a multimillionaire speak lightly about being unemployed. Romney doesn't have to worry about the federal jobless benefits expiring after 99 weeks. The average Joe is not so fortunate.
Speaking of Romney, the Democrats have been road-testing an attack against the guy, but I question whether it'll fly. In recent days, Democratic party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, ex-Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs, and Obama re-election strategist David Axelrod have complained on television that Romney was a lousy economic steward while he was governor, that on his watch the state of Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states in terms of job creation.
But would voters really care about that? State economies thrive and contract for all kinds of reasons; a governor's party label is hardly indicative of anything. In fact, of the three states that ranked lower than Massachusetts in job creation during the Romney era (2003 to 2007), two of them (Michigan and Louisiana) were helmed in those years by Democratic governors. And Romney himself worked with a Democratic legislature.
The George H. W. Bush re-election campaign tried the same kind of attack against Bill Clinton in 1992, targeting his long reign as governor of Arkansas. I remember the imagery in the national TV ad - a stormy sky, a dystopian wasteland, a lone black bird perched on the silhouetted branch of a bare tree - and I remember the litany of statistics about how Arkansas was "45th worst in which to work" and "45th worst for children." I also remember how that election turned out.
The Republicans have been right to complain that President Obama has violated the War Powers Act by waging war in Libya without congressional authorization; in a letter to Obama earlier this week, House Speaker John Boehner lamented the president's "refusal to acknowledge and respect the role of the Congress." I wrote here yesterday about Obama's defiance of the '73 law.
On the other hand, would congressional Republicans be up in arms about the War Powers Act if the same foreign adventure was being prosecuted by President John McCain? Not a chance.
Indeed, McCain knows this. He happens to believe that the War Powers Act is a crock and that Obama is right to do as he pleases in Libya. As he remarked recently, "I would say to my Republican friends: If this were a Republican president, would you be trying to impose these same conditions?"
Michele Bachmann has the requisite tools to thrive in the early Republican primaries and become the populist tea-party alternative to Romney.
I base this not on anything she said the other night at the CNN-sponsored debate, but strictly on her communication and telegenic skills. She is made for cable. Chris Matthews clearly has a tingle up his leg about her, not because of what she says (obviously), but because the camera loves her and because she speaks with such powerful articulate certitude (even when her assertions are contradicted by factual reality). I could be wrong, but she seems well poised to be a formidable presence in the Republican race. Sarah who?
There's an old saying that no man is a hero to his valet. Perhaps that explains why Rick Santorum still can't feel the love in Pennsylvania. He's known all too well.
According to a new Quinnipiac poll, Obama would currently win swing-state Pennsylvania by 11 percentage points (and he would carry independent voters by 11 points) if he's matched against Santorum. By contrast, Obama would currently win the state by only seven points if matched against Romney.
But given the fact that Santorum was thrown out of the Senate in 2006 by a margin of 18 points, I suppose the new stats demonstrate that he's making progress.
Not that any of this matters, of course, because in the impending battle for the populist conservative niche in the Republican race, Bachmann will probably blow him out.
So, farewell Anthony Weiner. There's another old saying: When a porn star says it's time for a politician to quit, then it's definitely time to quit.
But America being the redemptive place it is, I suspect it's only a matter of time before we witness the cable debut of The Anthony Weiner Show.
Or perhaps we'll see an Anthony Weiner movie. My casting choices: Adrien Brody or Ben Shenkman. Alas, the young Tony Perkins is unavailable.