The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) — By now it seems everyone has chewed over Mitt Romney’s gaffe about poor people and spit out the ideologically determined opinion. Speaking this week to CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien after his victory in the Florida Republican primary, Romney blurted out, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”

For Democratic partisans, the video, an early valentine, speaks for itself. But even conservatives criticized Romney for ham-handedness or for failing to articulate the proper vision of upward mobility. The news media, facing a dreaded lull in the presidential contest, naturally piled on.

The harsh reaction was unfair, but in a particularly galling fashion. Pressed to clarify his remark, Romney said, “My focus is on middle-income Americans,” and added, “These are the people who’ve been most badly hurt during the Obama years.”

However awkwardly expressed, Romney’s meaning seemed plain for those willing to hear him out: He was pitching his lot with the middle class, but meant no harm to the poor. In fact, in the interview Romney made a commitment: “I’m not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them.” You can read the transcripts of all 19 Republican presidential debates and not find a more compelling promise to the hard-pressed.

The real problem with Romney’s remarks is that they bear little resemblance to his comparatively uncontroversial economic plan. According to the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, “Believe in America,” Romney’s economic blueprint, would impose fresh burdens on the poor, cutting anti-poverty programs while simultaneously depriving lawmakers of the money to repair the holes. As for the middle class, it is hard to argue that it is a primary “focus,” at least if you follow the money in the candidate’s plan.

A few examples. Romney would end tax credits for higher education, the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and other provisions enacted in 2009 to counter the recession. While taxes for many poor people would rise, taxes on the middle class would generally decline somewhat and taxes on the wealthiest would decline substantially. Romney would repeal health insurance for the working poor, repeal the estate tax and permanently extend the Bush tax cuts. The Tax Policy Center calculates that in 2015 Romney’s plan would generate an average break of $865,637 to the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers.

Romney’s plan would also put government on less solid footing. Compared with current federal policy, Romney’s plan would add an additional $180 billion to the federal deficit in 2015. Calculated by a more exacting standard — current law — his policies would increase the deficit by $600 billion. Nothing in the plan suggests that the middle class would be exempt from interest and principal payments on the extra debt accrued.

In the foreword to Romney’s “Believe in America,” economist R. Glenn Hubbard, who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, notes that “U.S. GDP growth has averaged 3.3 percent over the past 50 years. But in the 2002-2007 period, before the crisis’s eye of the storm hit the financial system and the economy, that growth averaged just 2.6 percent.”

Why this forthright assessment of the record of the Bush administration appears in a Republican campaign document is a mystery. For most of the half century of higher growth that Hubbard cites, U.S. tax rates were sharply more progressive than they have been since the Bush tax cuts took effect after 2001.

Instead of being pummeled for his inartful statements, Romney should be asked to spell out how his economic plan affects the poor, middle class and wealthy alike. Having a political career reduced to caricature is unfair to any candidate; not pressing candidates to explain how their rhetoric meshes with their proposals is unfair to us all.

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}