Posted on March 21, 2012 in Countdown
Countdown Vol. 10, No. 40
Romney Takes Illinois
And it wasn't even close! Romney had a double-digit lead on Santorum. Or in Politico's words, Romney "crushed" Santorum. As for the great Newt Gingrich, he came in last, more than an entire percentage point behind Ron Paul (that's right, an ENTIRE percentage point). It certainly helped Romney that the Illinois electorate is moderate and more concerned with "electability" than conservatism. Whereas the Republican establishment is comfortable with Romney's ability to perform in the general election (where it's not just the base voting), as Editor of Campaigns and Elections Shane D' Aprile points out in an interview with Jim (which hasn't aired yet), Romney's inability to earn the confidence of the conservative base thus far is what's keeping him from shaking Santorum and Gingrich out of the race. This is bad because it forces Romney to burn through his cash to win these primaries when his campaign would much rather conserve and use the cheddar against Obama. Click here to get a sneak peak at the Shane D'Aprile interview with Jim before it airs.
Speaking of Obama...
Sometimes we get carried away with the happenings of the Republican primaries that we forget to check in and see how the Democrat in this race is doing. Well, a New York Times/CBS News poll taken last week showed that the President’s approval rating has dropped to 41% (from 50% the month before). While the President has little to do with gas prices, many speculate the drop in his ratings is tied to rising gas costs. To add injury to insult, the President is also having a hard time with fundraising, “with half as many people writing large checks to his campaign than at this point four years ago,” according to the National Journal’s Hotline. Obama is even lagging behind Romney in finding donors who are willing to give $2,000 or more, a "surprising development for a sitting president, and one that could signal more worrisome financial problems heading into the general elections." Well, he must be excited about the financial toll the protracted Republican primary is taking on Romney. But he must not be too excited about his base not being as excited this time around, something he hopes to fix with a 17-minute video highlighting his achievements after 3 years in office. Yeah, anyone can do a 17-minute online video. The question is: can he raise enough money to place multiple 30-minute TV spots like he did towards the end of the 2008 campaign?
Women in the 2012 Election
From Rush Limbaugh’s vicious personal attack on a private citizen who spoke in favor of coverage for birth control, to Arizona’s bill penalizing women who use birth control for “non-medical” reasons, the rightwing war on women has really taken off. Indeed, it has reached a point that caused John McCain to fire back at his own party, calling on them to “get off” the birth control issue and “respect” women’s right to make these life choices. Well, the RNC isn’t going to sit idly by while these accusations are leveled at their party, so now they’re going after “Obama’s war on women.” Hold your chuckles, we’re not joking, they SERIOUSLY are. So what Obama policies constitute a “war” on women, you ask? Why of course it’s the policy of having an affiliated Super PAC accept a donation from TV show host and comedian Bill Maher, who sometimes calls women bad names (admittedly pretty bad names, but still quiet the stretch there). Maybe the DNC will now find a way to go after the Republican war on the 2nd Amendment; and Al-Assad will go after America for police violence against protesters, and Israel will go after Iran for the secret development of a nuclear program. Never mind, that last one is actually real too. And again, the absurdity is missed on everyone.
Does Anyone Have the Answer?
When an apparent accidental Quran-burning was topped with an American soldier’s murderous rampage victimizing 16 Afghan civilians (including 9 children), everyone agreed that an already intractable situation in Afghanistan had just become even more complicated. Many are calling for a precipitous US exist from Afghanistan, but the President has indicated that the mission is on track and that we’re sticking to the set timetable for withdrawal (to be completed in 2014). Asked what he would do in Afghanistan, Romney said the following: “before I take a stand on a particular course of action, I want to get the input from the people who are there.” Good point! We’ve only been in Afghanistan for a little over a decade, so let’s not make premature decisions over whether we should leave soon or not. It really tells you something when Romney’s campaign didn’t view Afghanistan as a major-enough campaign issue to prepare a position on it.
Got Civil Rights?
Are you disturbed by the PATRIOT Act’s civil rights transgressions? Wait until you hear this: The Justice Department apparently has an even more intrusive interpretation of their powers under the PATRIOT Act; one which, "Contrary to core principles of American democracy" (in the words of Senators Wyden and Udall), they refuse to disclose to the American people. So, are there any hints of how bad this secret interpretation is? Well, Senator Udall (who sits on the Intelligence Committee) said Americans “will be stunned and they will be angry” when they find out how the government interprets the PATRIOT Act. Well, if they will indeed “be angry,” then it’s not just about profiling Muslims, because Americans might be just fine with that. Why do we say that? Because the majority of New Yorkers (58%) actually approve of the NYPD’s spying on American Muslims (it's always lovely when fellow Americans see American Muslims as "other" and less deserving of privacy rights). By the way, if you don’t have a sense of the dangerous implications of the NYPD’s spying on American Muslims, you should read Jim’s latest column about shredding the Constitution here.
UNESCO Absurdity Not Missed On All
Our Congress has an absurd law on the books requiring the U.S. to cut off funding for any U.N. agency that recognizes Palestine. So when a U.N. Agency like UNESCO gets defunded (as it did) for recognizing Palestine, it means that millions of people who depend on UNESCO for their basic needs are punished for a purely symbolic reason, and more specifically for a purely stupid symbolic reason. That’s why thousands of you took action through our action alerts demanding a course correction, but our efforts weren’t fruitful. Well, we’re not alone in seeing the absurdity of this law. Last week, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart ran a hilarious and powerful segment with John Oliver berating the law. “It’s not that we’re not aware of the terrible consequences of our actions,” Oliver mused, “We’d love to help. It’s just, we can’t. Even though we can. But the law says we shouldn’t. We’d love to change that law, but we can’t. Except, we can. It’s just that we don’t want to. Except, we do, it’s just that we’re not going to.” Watch part 1 and part 2 of the segment.