In the Arena

First, Kill All the Political Consultants

The Des Moines Register has released an off-the-record endorsement interview with President Obama...and I haven't a clue why the Obama folks wanted this off-the-record in the first place.

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I find myself, once again, boggled by this presidential campaign. The Des Moines Register has released an off-the-record endorsement interview with President Obama…and I haven’t a clue why the Obama folks wanted this off-the-record in the first place. It is lucid, compelling, colloquial and almost candid. Obama talks about how he actually see the first year of his next term should he be reelected:

So when you combine the Bush tax cuts expiring, the sequester in place, the commitment of both myself and my opponent — at least Governor Romney claims that he wants to reduce the deficit — but we’re going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business.

It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs.

And we can easily meet — “easily” is the wrong word — we can credibly meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the out-years, and we can stabilize our deficit-to-GDP ratio in a way that is really going to be a good foundation for long-term growth. Now, once we get that done, that takes a huge piece of business off the table.

The second thing I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration reform. And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done. And I want to get it done because it’s the right thing to do and I’ve cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.

So assume that you get those two things done in the first year, and we’re implementing Wall Street reform, Obamacare turns out not to have been the scary monster that the other side has painted. Now we’re in a position where we can start on some things that really historically have not been ideological. We can start looking at a serious corporate tax reform agenda that’s revenue-neutral but lowers rates and broadens the base — something that both Republicans and Democrats have expressed an interest in.

I suppose the “danger” here was the President talking about how messy the deficit fight might get. And maybe applauding Bush and Rove for their enlightened self-interest about the immigration issue, and maybe separating out the Latino vote for consideration in the first place. But the upside–the easy intelligence of Obama’s answers when he doesn’t feel constrained to weigh every word–far outweighs the risk.

I have friends–good friends, people I really admire–who serve as political consultants on both campaigns. And I’ve got to say that they’ve done the nation a disservice this year. They have put both candidates in straitjackets. Romney was encouraged to pursue a all-wingnut, all-the-time strategy through most of the year that didn’t fit his beliefs or personality. Obama was discouraged from laying out what he’d do in a second term. Both campaigns have suffered as a result–and so has the public.

In my experience, the most compelling line any political consultant can trot out is: “You can’t say that, because…” Insert here: “the focus groups don’t like it” or “it doesn’t poll well” or “our big money bundlers hate that idea” or “if you say, ‘it’ll be messy’ Drudge will plaster it all over his front page.” Ad nauseum, ad infinitum. Some politicians, like Bill Clinton, are skilled enough to know when to cast off the shackles; others, like George W. Bush, will defy the polls on matters of principle. Sadly, it seems that neither Romney nor Obama have been willing to do that this year. I would have loved a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate where the two sat down and just talked about where they agreed and disagreed, rather than floating whoppers and scoring points. But I suspect that in our mature, over-marketed democracy, those days are over.

73 comments
JorgeJohnson
JorgeJohnson

In his keynote to the RNC, Chris Christie spoke of the importance of "respect" like he was Aretha Franklin. Then the Romney campaign spent September and October disrespecting women and minorities. Republicans were confident that they could limit minority turnout with threats and confusion. They were wrong.

Deewood1
Deewood1

Joe, The political ads in Arizona are vile with the attacks and accusations. They can't just tell us WHY we should elect them but WHY we shouldn't elect their opposition. Is this going on in NY and other states. I'm from California and I've only been here 4 years but I don't remember this kind of politics in the Palm Springs area. Is it common throughout all the states. It's really DISGUSTING! 

ChapperElk
ChapperElk

Halperin thinks a negative ad means you're losing? I'm in FLA and ALL of Romney's ads are negative. Dark, grim, sad faced people talking about an Obama that doesn't exist. I think Obama hitting Romney hard in the final days doesn't mean he's losing it's the nature of this beast. Remind people in a close election what's at stake.

chupkar
chupkar

It only took me three refreshes and two open in new page on my iPhone so I could say "I totally agree. "

La_Randy
La_Randy

My likes for good comments are being deleted. Only Time could find a commenting system worst than Disqus. Thanks! :-/

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

I'm still amazed that people are that afraid of Sludge.  He's nothing but a partisan goon.

Ohiolib
Ohiolib

Simple. He put it OTR to give the teabaggers something to scream. Then he just released it and proved them wrong. Big whoop. 

kathy
kathy

IS SANDY THE OCTOBER SURPRISE?

Haven't seen anything about this yet, but Hurricane Sandy is going to impact the Atlantic and or Northeast coast at the beginning of the week, and if it's as significant as it looks like it's going to be, the effects will still be around on election day.  Maybe power still out.  The derecho in the Atlantic this summer left some without power for a week.  

Traditionally this would seem to affect Democrats more, if you agree that more Democrats use public transportation, and might suffer more disruptions in less well constructed housing, etc.  

Hoping this somehow doesn't do what it looks like it's going to.  I have family in Cape May this week for a birding conference, and I'll be sad if that's disrupted, but sadder still for those who live there.  Really hoping we don't get it in New England, either.  Vermont still recovering from the trauma of Irene.

paulejb1
paulejb1

Barry tells the Des Moines Register that he has no regrets for neglecting the economy in his first term.

Q: Yes, that begs a question from us, Mr. President. Some say you had a super majority in your first two years and had this incredible opportunity, but because of what you were talking about, as you were running, you had to go to get Obamacare done. Do you have any regrets taking on some of the economic issues, some of the issues that we’re talking about for your second term, that when you had the chance, so to speak, during your first — do you have any regrets that you didn’t do that at that time?

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely not, Laura. Remember the context. First of all, Mitch McConnell has imposed an ironclad filibuster from the first day I was in office. And that’s not speculation. I mean, this is — it’s amply recorded. He gave a speech saying, my task is to defeat the President.

gysgt213
gysgt213

@JoeKleinTime Have you considered that the Obama campaign never really wanted this off the record in the first place?  What they really wanted is you all talking about it. You are dealing with professionals here.  They see the media as a tool that is very compliant and very usable.  This goes for the Obama and Romney campaigns as well as people like Trump and Coulter.  

sgre144
sgre144

might it be that they are just stupid. Why couldn't he have said to the public that after resolving the sequestration, I will make every effort to enact a mutually agreeable immigration reform bill, the foundation which will be the Dream Act. While I will vote for the President, my vote doesn't count, I live in TX, I'm just amazed at the lack of candor by the President and the incompetents from Chicago. Has there been  more risk-adverse campaign?

NP042
NP042

Since this appears to be the best place to ask, what in all that's holy happened to the comments in the Ohio poll article?  Looking at the newest comments it's nothing but spam about Obama being a Muslim.  Jesus tap-dancing Christ.

kathy
kathy

Did The Register release an interview without permission, that they had agreed was off the record?  That would be surprising.  Or did the President agree to let it be released after the fact?

As to why it was off the record, look at the foofaraw over the word "optimal" last week.  Any politician can be more confident of getting the point across if they only need to worry about the opposition attacking the policy, rather than a word.  

 I wish Walt Kelly (Pogo's creator) was still around.  He would have much to say about all of this. It's easy to forget, with our overheated rhetoric, that there were other eras that were as dangerous and as freighted.  Walt Kelly would have given the Simple J. Malarkey treatment to somebody, that's for sure.

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

I'll ignore the fact that Joe's complimentary handling of George II and Rove is likely to be a sign of the apocalypse and just say that I agree on all points.  These men didn't get to where they are simply by having great handlers...they got there by having ideas that propelled them in their chosen field (dubya may be the exception there).  It's too bad that everything has to be nuanced, spun, and run-by a focus group before public consumption.  If the candidates felt free to speak their minds and principles, we would (for better or worse) be much better informed of our choice in November.

grape_crush
grape_crush

 > I haven’t a clue why the Obama folks wanted this off-the-record in the first place.

But you do, Joe:

> But the upside–the easy intelligence of Obama’s answers when he doesn’t feel constrained to weigh every word–far outweighs the risk.

Stakes are too high to blow your campaign on something that could be inadvertently or intentionally misconstrued as a 'gotcha' moment.

That, and it was a bit of an attention-getter, wasn't it?

> Romney was encouraged to pursue a all-wingnut, all-the-time strategy through most of the year that didn’t fit his beliefs or personality.

What, exactly, are Romney's beliefs, Joe? The only belief of Romney's that I can pin down is his belief that he deserves to be President...

...And if Romney possesses is a set of core beliefs and steady personality, he wouldn't have let himself be so easily persuaded, would he?One of my major objections to a Romney presidency isn't just about Romney; it's about who he would be working with and what their agendas are. We get a President Romney combined with a GOP Congress and neocon foreign policy advisors and we've stepped back into the worst parts of the Bush years.

filmnoia
filmnoia

I'd like to know how Joe knows that Willard's wingnut positions aren't part of the man he is. He has truly been the Man For All Seasons for all the years he has ran for office going back to the days of running against Teddy Kennedy. There is this MSM piece of conventional wisdom that he is a "moderate", but there really is no proof of knowing what he is. That's the frightening aspect of his guy. He has shown time and again to be a cynical coward who adapts to whoever has the power. The GOP power in DC is among the lunatic right, so this is who he will play to.

ahandout
ahandout

@La_Randy You are on record for not being able to find your ass with a map on disqus. Please stop making us suffer your stupidity as you learn to use something new.

doddeb
doddeb

@La_Randy : I 'be noticed that, as well. And on the Ohio poll thread some of our comments disappeared also.

chupkar
chupkar

@kathy yeah I've been worrying about that. Kind if hoping people can vote early in most of those states.

NP042
NP042

@paulejb1 Not that I'm surprised, but is it too much to ask that you even read what you're posting?

First of all, Mitch McConnell has imposed an ironclad filibuster from the first day I was in office. And that’s not speculation. I mean, this is — it’s amply recorded. He gave a speech saying, my task is to defeat the President.

You would rather he wasted time on bills that would never pass the fillibuster?  Wait, what am I asking?  You have no principles.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@NP042 I saw that. It was, um, interesting?

When I read those comments (and generally I can only take three or four before backing out and reaching for the hand sanitizer), my first thought is always, how in the hell do these people function in the real world?

doddeb
doddeb

Welcome to the brave new world.  I have to say I don't like it much.  Not sure if it's LiveFyre or what, but in the past when the locusts descended, it wasn't this batsh!t crazy. 

filmnoia
filmnoia

When the RNC saw that TIME had a poll with Obama being up by 5 in Ohio, my hunch is that they had their paid trolls come out in force. There are a lot of names there you never saw before. Probably a lot of spillage from the Reich Wing trash you find over on The Hill. The vermin come out when you lift a rock. That poll was the rock.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@kathy I had an I Go Pogo button, from when he ran for President. Alas, it was lost when it had to clear our my family's house. I can still picture it.

doddeb
doddeb

Kathy:  The Register agreed to conduct the interview "off the record".  Then, one of the Register's editors complained about it in a widely-quoted opinion piece, and the Obama campaign agreed to release it.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@HudsonValleyTim To give Dubya his due, no one ever had to wonder where he stood on an issue or what he believed, and once he staked out a position on an issue, dynamite couldn't budge him. (Or facts, but I digress, as decon would say.)

And, btw, just how horrendous a candidate is Willard that he makes Dubya look … not as horrendous?

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@grape_crush "What, exactly, are Romney's beliefs, Joe?"

Don't mind him much. He still thinks George W Bush did something "on matters of principle," rather than what Karl Rove or his plutocrat masters told him to do. Apparently he still hasn't figured out that "establishment contrarian" is just an oxymoron without the oxy.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@filmnoia Joe doesn't know that anymore than anyone else. As a centrist, it's hardly to believe someone like Mitt could really be a right wing nutter. The old Etch-a-Sketch comment told us all we needed to know about what they were going to do. I don't think Joe believed that either. Mitt is an amazing chameleon who takes on the coloring of whoever is around him.

He would be an utter disaster as President because if he wins, the teepers will take over the Senate as well and then Mitt can relax on his yacht because he won't have to do anything more than sign the Norquist legislation.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@filmnoia I'd also suggest that Willard's ease with lying and abandoning one position to claim another is proof that this is exactly who he is. Lying comes not only easily, but naturally to him. It's his first response when challenged.

Anyone that good at lying and that obviously practiced at it isn't exactly agonizing over having to adopt positions that aren't actually his. He doesn't have any core beliefs of his own (except that he wants to be president), so it's just a whole lot easier to jettison that day's stated beliefs when they no longer serve his purpose.

Willard's positions and "beliefs" are as disposable as paper plates.

charlieromeobravo
charlieromeobravo

@filmnoia That, I think, really is the problem with Romney.  At this point he's held so many differing or modulated positions on so many issues that I seriously doubt anyone outside of a privileged group of people really know what Romney really thinks and how really intends to act if he were to win office. 

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@doddeb And, mumble grumble, my avatar disappeared in some of the comments below that I posted earlier.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@doddeb @La_Randy I noticed both things as well. I get e-mail about likes for comments, then when I come back to the topic for some reason they are all gone. At least one comment disappeared as well. Perhaps Livefyre has to make room for the orange juice.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@nflfoghorn @kathy Of course we can't vote early in PA, but it should all be over by then for us.

outsider
outsider

@doddeb 

LiveFyre is connected to twitter and FB - so you can log onto your account from there, and thus post from there. 

Also, remember, we're in the last two weeks before the election, so there is definitely going to be a concerted effort to mess with your vote. 

Look at those people who were calling to say you could vote by phone, or that you voted on the 8th.. The trolls here serve the same function; make you feel like you shouldn't bother. Look at paulie, handy, rusty, etc. It's in their interest that you get so frustrated you stop paying attention. 

PANATAG
PANATAG

@Sue_N @HudsonValleyTim

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filmnoia
filmnoia

Yes, just imagine if Herbert Hoover had been elected in 1936 defeating FDR, instead of 1928.

filmnoia
filmnoia

Since what you say is so easy for most of us to see , yet the  Joe Klein media can't accept it. It might have to do with the fact that the word "lie" and "liar" in regards to Willard seems to be something that they fins incapable of uttering. Like Halperin, who will give a B+ to both Obama and Willard in the last debate, they want to continue to have access to a Romney WH. Being called a "liar" will not be forgotten.

filmnoia
filmnoia

This is why it's such a mystery why the "liberal" MSM would call him a "moderate." Do they know something they aren't sharing with their readers, or are they just guessing? I'll gp with the latter.

doddeb
doddeb

@Ivy_B @doddeb l am still trying to figure out how to edit my profile to include an avatar.

PANATAG
PANATAG

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