The Romney campaign barely acknowledges the moment
A few weeks back, I wrote in Newsweek that Republicans were treating George W. Bush’s tenure “like a bender from which the party is still hung over.”
Yes, he was president of the United States for eight years, but Mitt Romney and the other GOP candidates had practically airbrushed him out of the picture. They barely mentioned 43, and when they did it was usually to criticize him over spending and bailouts—because, former spokesman Ari Fleischer told me, “they don’t want to deal with Democratic attacks in the fall for having said something praiseworthy about President Bush.”
That may explain why Bush’s endorsement Tuesday—if you can call it that—consisted of all of four words, and the Romney campaign barely cleared its throat in accepting his backing.
Here’s the sum total:
“I’m for Mitt Romney,” Bush told ABC News this morning as the doors of an elevator closed on him, after he gave a speech on human rights a block from his old home — the White House.
Elevator doors closing. Like in a B-movie comedy.
So that’s it? Not even a measly photo op?
A Romney spokeswoman told the New York Observer: “We’re proud to have the president’s support, but he made clear when he left office that he was not going to engage in political campaigns and we have no reason to believe that is going to change.”
What about the convention? Will Bush be ushered in through a back door?
Look, it’s not hard to decipher what’s going on here. Bush left office on Jan. 20, 2009 as an extremely unpopular figure. Polls show that more people blame him than Obama for the decrepit state of the economy. Romney wants to run against Obama’s record, not defend W’s.
At the same time, the Obama campaign keeps driving home how Romney wants to take the country “backwards,” meaning to the bad old Bush years. So keeping the former president out of the spotlight won’t be as easy as stepping inside a closing elevator.
Web whiz Larry Kramer returns to newspapering
Larry Kramer left the newspaper world long ago and plunged into digital journalism.
“It’s like I got sent to graduate school for 30 years,” he says.
Kramer, who built Marketwatch.com into a viable business, has just been tapped as president and publisher of USA Today—and plans to push the newsroom further into the 21st century. As for newspapers, he says, “we don’t want to be viewed as the railroad industry.”
New poll shows majority believe gay marriage decision influenced by politics (duh)
Two-thirds of Americans now believe President Obama was mostly motivated by politics in deciding to back same-sex marriage.
Wow—what a shocker!
Imagine, a president running for reelection who considers the impact of his decisions on whether he can keep his job.
Of course Obama was motivated by politics, at least in part. The majority who said so in the New York Times/CBS poll out Tuesday are right. But why was that deemed dramatic enough to become the NYT's lead?
Will an attack on Romney's business record resonate in 2012?
President Obama is playing the Bain card, big time.
Mitt Romney, then-Chief Executive of Bain Capital., photographed in 1993. (David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
It was only a matter of time before his reelection campaign savaged Mitt Romney over job losses caused by the venture capital firm he once headed. This was hardly a deeply held secret. After all, Ted Kennedy went after Bain Capital when he defeated Romney in 1994. And some of Romney’s Republican rivals, notably Newt Gingrich, ripped him earlier this year over the devastation that Bain visited on some of the companies it acquired.
Obama’s two-minute Web ad is featured on a new site, RomneyEconomics.com, which makes clear that the president plans to make Bain a centerpiece of his assault on Romney. This might have been held back for a Labor Day attack. By unleashing it in May, the Obama team is signaling that it wants to define Romney now, while his public image is still gauzy, rather than wait until attitudes have hardened in the fall.
He finally backs Romney, but can't bring himself to utter the words
Could Rick Santorum possibly have delivered a more tepid endorsement of Mitt Romney than reducing it to an e-mail?
What, he couldn't access his Twitter account?
Isn't this one notch above breaking up with someone by text message?
Jeff Swensen / Getty Images
Obama aides defend Biden on same-sex issue.
It is a fine political art, seeming to take a position without really doing so. But after Vice President Joe Biden came out in support of gay marriage on a Sunday talk show appearance, the Obama team has taken the opportunity to attack Mitt Romney—as the president himself stays tight-lipped.
I have no doubt that Barack Obama would come out for gay marriage tomorrow if he thought he could get away with it. For the president to say he’s “evolving” is his wink-wink way of assuring his supporters that he privately agrees with them but has to keep his lip zipped until after he’s safely reelected.
Joe Biden has now taken half a step further, hiding behind the fact that he is merely vice president of the United States.
After her agreement on the Chinese dissident blew up, it looks like Clinton managed to make a second deal. Howard Kurtz on how she may have defused the Beijing blowup.
It wasn’t easy for Hillary Clinton to hammer out a deal with Chinese leaders for the freedom of dissident Chen Guangcheng. But what made it doubly difficult was that she had to do it twice.
Rep. Chris Smith tells Howard Kurtz that the Obama administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not keep Chen safe in the U.S Embassy
The process was marked by missteps and misunderstandings and could still fall apart at the last minute. The secretary of state’s team was left feeling caught between Beijing’s hardline regime and the shifting moods of the blind activist, according to administration officials who declined to be identified. Clinton had worked hard to ensure that it was safe for Chen to leave the protective custody of the U.S. Embassy, only to see that agreement fall apart and her mission seemingly in tatters.
If all goes well, Chen will soon leave his native country for a period of study at New York University, a face-saving arrangement to defuse the crisis. But the Obama administration is still being extraordinarily cautious, with officials determined not to relax until Chen’s passport is stamped and he is on a U.S.-bound plane.
How the right is trying to neutralize Obama's hipness
The right has come up with a new line of attack against Barack Obama: He’s too cool.
You read that right.
Suddenly, it was an act of unpresidential affrontery for Obama to go on Jimmy Fallon’s show. Never mind that presidents and presidential candidates have been doing the late-night thing for two decades, back to Bubba’s sax-playing moment with Arsenio. Never mind that Mitt Romney recited a silly Top Ten list on Letterman and pretended to be reading Kim Kardashian’s tweets. Never mind that George W. Bush went on Oprah. Obama was a bad boy.
Five contests, lots of media, zero drama.
It has all the trappings of a big election night: five primaries, live television coverage, pundits telling us what it all means.
But what if it doesn’t mean squat?
Let’s face it: the GOP presidential race ended weeks ago. You know it, I know it, and every working journalist knows it. Maybe not Newt, but most other sentient beings. If this were a boxing match, the refs would have stopped it long ago.
Romney greets supporters at an election-night rally in Manchester, N.H. (Jae C. Hong / AP Photo)
A former presidential candidate goes way off the reservation
Why is Jon Huntsman going rogue?
Having utterly flopped in the Republican primaries, the former Utah governor now seems intent on trashing the party.
Here are the possibilities:
Forget liberal bias. A new study reveals that the press covered Romney twice as favorably as Obama during the primaries—and declared the GOP race over weeks ago, reports Howard Kurtz.
During the bruising Republican primaries, there was one candidate whose coverage was more relentlessly negative than the rest. In fact, he did not enjoy a single week where positive treatment by the media outweighed the negative.
Howard Kurtz on why President Obama received the most negative press during the primaries
His name is Barack Obama.
That is among the findings of a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a Washington nonprofit that examined 52 key newspaper, television, radio, and Web outlets.
The candidate is carefully avoiding most national interviews outside of Fox. Howard Kurtz on why Mitt resents the media—and what his isolation is costing him.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that Mitt Romney is hiding from the national media, exactly. Why, on Thursday morning he went on Fox & Friends, fielding such tough questions about his challenge to President Obama as: “You’re beating him with independents. How are you going to outdo him in that department?”
Mitt Romney speaks during a press conference after a campaign rally, Jan. 17, 2012 (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
And Romney did sit down—with his wife, Ann, which seems to have been the point—for a chat this week with Diane Sawyer, which focused on Ann Romney’s role, a handful of issues, and why he once transported the family dog on the car roof.
But as he makes the pivot to general-election nominee, Romney remains a remote figure to most of those who are covering him. And some Republican campaign veterans say that makes political sense.
Hilary Rosen set off a storm by denigrating Ann Romney, but how real was it? Howard Kurtz on the politics of anger.
I’m not letting Hilary Rosen off the hook for her dumb swipe at Ann Romney, but the howls of outrage are getting to be a bit much.
You’d think the CNN prognosticator had gone to the Romney mansion, leapt over a couple of Cadillacs, and hit the candidate’s wife in the face with a cream pie.
Mark Von Holden, WireImage / Getty Images
It was merely the latest example of the manufactured outrage business. Somebody in public life makes a stupid remark, and grown adults practically faint, so stricken are they by the offending words. It’s faux political theater of the kind that can grip cable-news outlets for days.
A fired producer insists he’s no “sociopath.”
After a week of intrigue, I came face to face—well, via satellite at least—with the Fox News mole.
Joe Muto was a $60,000-a-year associate producer for Bill O’Reilly when he started posting anonymously at Gawker. Within about 24 hours, Fox caught him, fired him and is threatening to sue him.
Why would he do such a thing?
In an interview on CNN’s Reliable Sources, I began by calling Muto a “weasel” and a “traitor”—throwing his own words back at him—and asked him why he blew up his career.
Her popularity is up, her guard is down, and her image as a shrew is a relic of the past. What’s changed for the secretary of State—and what are the implications for 2016?
Hillary Clinton bears the battle scars of a lifetime: the attacks on her ambitious role as first lady, her gargantuan health-care plan, her standing by her man after the Monica mess, her brittle presidential campaign that fumbled away a 30-point lead.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA upon her departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli, Libya October 18, 2011. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)
But suddenly she is awash in waves of positive press, even being described as “cool,” and the 2016 whispers are growing louder.
“Many people are saying, ‘Gee, she’s a pretty tough woman who’s taken a lot of hits and really come back,’” says James Carville, the Cajun strategist who helped Bill Clinton win the White House two decades ago. “The fact is she’s done a good job, she’s overcome adversity despite the personal disappointment. It’s a classic story.”
Writer George Packer mostly succeeds in describing the dissolution of our civic culture, says Michael Tomasky.