Against the Grain, Texas GOP Dominated on Election Day

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Democratic victories across the nation left Republican voters and activists with the political version of a hangover last week. In the alternate universe known as Texas, they are blaming the Champagne.

Republicans here are celebrating another statewide sweep. They held onto huge majorities in the Legislature and the Texas congressional delegation. And at a time of increasing angst about their ability to thrive as the Hispanic population grows, the Texas Republican Party has fielded the first Hispanic U.S. senator from Texas — Ted Cruz.

“Thank God for Texas,” Chris Turner, a Republican consultant, said in a post-election speech to Republican activists in a conservative suburb of Austin. He said, joking, that the state might consider using stimulus money “to build a moat around our northern border.”

Nationwide, conservatives watched as Democrats scored come-from-behind victories in some red-state U.S. Senate contests and thinned out the Republican Party’s majority in the U.S. House. Victories by gay rights proponents and supporters of legalized pot did nothing to lift their spirits.

They could take solace, though, in the nation’s second-largest state, where full-throated conservative Rick Perry has been governor for a dozen years and no one is betting he will be replaced by a Democrat anytime soon. Perry was not on the ballot this year, so the big question on Election Day was the margin of victory in Texas for the men at the top of the ticket, Mitt Romney and Cruz. It turned out to be about 57 percent each.

Texas is the only majority-minority state that is reliably Republican, and it has gone longer without a Democrat in statewide office than any other state, according to PolitiFact Texas.

“We are the tomato in the blue sea,” said Peggy Venable, a conservative activist and director of the Texas branch of Americans for Prosperity. “We truly are different. I had people across the country that called me last night saying, ‘I’m moving to Texas.’”

There are some caveats to the victory narrative. Just as Republicans had some bright spots nationally, Democrats in Texas are crowing about a handful of electoral successes here.

In the state’s only congressional swing district, state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, was declared the winner against U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-San Antonio, though Canseco has not conceded. State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, whose defeat would have brought Republicans one vote shy of an unbreakable two-thirds majority in that chamber, hung on in a district drawn to elect a Republican. And, with an influx of minority voters over the last decade, there will be more Democrats in the Legislature as a result of a redistricting process.

Scattered among the state’s election results are some warning signs for Republicans looking at a future that might not be as accommodating to their policy prescriptions and sometimes harsh rhetoric on hot-button social issues.

At the top of the ticket, Democrats were either tied with or dominating Republicans in four of the five largest counties, forcing Republicans to count on ever-larger margins in predominately white suburban and rural areas to stay on top.

Democrats, meanwhile, picked off three Republican incumbents in legislative races, but none of their own lost re-election contests. Three Republican incumbents also lost races — to little-known Democrats with Hispanic surnames — for seats on the 4th Court of Appeals in heavily Hispanic South Texas.

In a state where Hispanics make up 38 percent of the population — and about half of the non-adults — results like that worry some Republicans.

“This election cycle was a preview of what’s coming and what is here already in some areas of the state of Texas,” said state Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, who did not seek re-election. “If Republicans don’t adapt to the changing demographics, then they will die.’’ He said with the rapidly changing population and political environment, that could happen sooner rather than later.

Anthony Holm, a Republican consultant in Texas, said a hard-line stance on immigration in particular has hurt Republican efforts to woo Hispanics, who tend to be socially conservative and pro-business.

“If we took that off the table, we would get a lot of their votes,” Holm said. “We have to find a way to get immigration resolved that we can live with.”

The drift toward more strident debates over illegal immigration is a relatively recent phenomenon in Texas. Republican leaders, including former President George W. Bush, traditionally stood apart from their national counterparts on the issue, using a softer approach favored by businesses that are dependent on migrant labor.

As president, Bush sought a guest-worker program that ultimately failed because of opposition from fellow Republicans. A decade later, during the 2012 Republican presidential race, Perry, his successor as Texas governor, famously stood by his support for a 2001 law that gives young illegal immigrants in-state college tuition rates. But Romney pounded him for it, and Perry paid a hefty price during the primary season.

Both Perry and Cruz, now senator-elect, have harshly criticized President Obama’s executive order allowing the same type of young immigrants — those who were brought here illegally by their parents but have stayed out of trouble — to get two-year work visas.  Cruz called the order “lawless” and said during the campaign he wanted a President Romney to overturn it.

Texas was not among the states where a news media consortium conducted exit polls, so how much Hispanic support there was for Cruz in his Senate race remains an open question. A review of the returns from several overwhelmingly Hispanic border counties in South Texas suggest he slightly outperformed Romney.

In Webb County, which includes Laredo, Romney got 22 percent of the vote, compared with 31 percent for Cruz; the presidential nominee got 30 percent of the vote in El Paso County, while Cruz won 36 percent.

While Romney and Cruz got lopsided support from white voters, as the presidential ticket did nationally, pre-election surveys by Mike Baselice suggest Romney did 12 to 15 percentage points better with Hispanics in Texas than in California. Obama’s big share of the Latino vote in California more closely mirrors his performance in battleground states.

After comparing surveys from California and Texas, Baselice also said Hispanics self-identify as moderate and conservative at significantly higher rates in Texas. In California, 37 percent of Hispanics call themselves conservative, 30 percent say they’re moderate and 33 percent embrace the liberal label.

In Texas, 46 percent of Hispanics say they are conservative, 36 percent are moderate and 18 percent say they are liberal, Baselice said.

For Democrats, the day when Hispanics vote in high enough numbers to help put them back into statewide competition cannot come soon enough. Richard Morrison, a Democrat, barely won his re-election as a Fort Bend county commissioner — over a Republican abandoned by his own county party after records showed he had voted in both Texas and Pennsylvania three times, an alleged felony.

“Someone is going to have to come down here and invest significant money on turning out the Latino population. It’s going to take about $25 million,’’ Morrison said. “Until they do that we’re just going to be in the same spot.’’

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/texas-politics/2012-elections/against-grain-tx-gop-dominated-election-day/.

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Jay Root, The Texas Tribune

Jay Root, The Texas TribuneJay Root is a native of Liberty, Texas. He never knew any reporters growing up, and he has never taken a journalism class in his life. But somehow he got hooked on the news business.

It all started when Root walked into the offices of The Daily Texan, his college newspaper, during his last year at the University of Texas in 1987. He couldn't the resist the draw: it was the biggest collection of misfits ever assembled. After graduating, he took a job at a Houston chemical company and soon realized it wasn't for him. Root applied for an unpaid internship at the Houston Post in 1990, and it turned into a full-time job that same year. He has been a reporter ever since.

Root has covered natural disasters, live music and Texas politics — not necessarily in that order. He was Austin bureau chief of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a dozen years, most of them good. He also covered politics and the Legislature for The Associated Press before joining the staff of the Texas Tribune.

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Leading A Republican Reformation

Photo courtesy of Donkey Hotey

Assuming that the coin tossed into the air Tuesday does not land on its side, just a few days from now Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will make their final speeches of the campaign.

One candidate will be jubilant. The other will have to force the phoniest smile of his life. He’ll read from a prepared text he barely has seen and didn’t prepare that doesn’t convey how he feels. And he’ll spend the next several months in a state of depression, a scapegoat for many in his party and on his side who are angry, frustrated and eager to blame.

The grief on the losing side will be especially acute because the race is so close. Each team is going into Election Day expecting to win — and the expectation of winning is a poor defense against the shock of losing.

If Romney were to lose, his fellow Republicans would erupt in recriminations, spiked by the fact that they never really liked him anyway. He’d be ridiculed by his supporters for not winning in the worst economy since the 1930s. They’d complain that he was too stiff and awkward, that he couldn’t bond with people, that he blundered by not releasing his tax returns and divesting from Bain long ago, and that he ran too far to the right in the primaries, which doomed him in the general election to be either a flip-flopper or a right-winger.

But I hope that if Romney loses, a group of Republican elders will gather to think more constructively about the state of their party.

Today’s Republican Party is not one that seeks to “promote the general welfare” in line with the principles of limited government. Instead, it has become a party whose core principle is to advance the interests of rich people and corporations. In essence, Republicans are seeking minority rule.

Minority rule, of course, is what democracy was designed to prevent, so achieving it requires strange contortions and manipulations of laws and public opinion, including:

—Passing voter ID laws designed to minimize the influence of poor and minority voters.

—Exploiting court rulings and campaign finance laws that maximize the influence of corporations.

—Suppressing scientific evidence, most obviously in the case of climate change, to protect corporate interests in the energy sector.

—Promoting economic ideology that favors the rich. (A Congressional Research Service report recently found that reducing top tax rates does not help grow the economy or create jobs. Republicans in Congress protested, and the study was withdrawn.)

—Appealing to anti-immigrant sentiment and other polarizing views (the birther movement) to attract voters whose economic interests are not served by a pro-corporate agenda.

Those are signs of a party that has come to the end of an honest strategy.

If the Republican Party does not confront its lagging appeal to women and young people and gays and African-Americans and Hispanics and other expanding demographics in the country today, then the games it will be forced to play to try to win a majority of the votes while serving a minority of the voters will become even more bizarre and destructive, not just to the party but also to the country.

That is why I’m hoping that a group of party elders will gather and lead a Republican reformation (Tom Friedman’s term). I would nominate leaders such as outgoing Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. John McCain of Arizona. That makes three Republican governors — one from a red state, one from a blue state, one from a swing state — and the party’s 2008 presidential nominee. All four have bucked aspects of their party’s most destructive orthodoxies. Jeb Bush has shown he’s not remotely intimidated by Grover Norquist, and — as someone who’s been married for nearly 40 years to a Mexican-American woman — Bush could help heal the rift between Republicans and Hispanics. Mitch Daniels is a pragmatic budget expert who has spoken eloquently against the harsh rhetoric that adds emotion and that strips reason from politics. Chris Christie is the most audaciously blunt man in American politics today and brilliantly countered the anti-Muslim prejudice that confronted one of his state court nominees. And John McCain, still the maverick, has been brutalized for his fierce honesty about the corrupting effect of corporate money in politics.

Those four may have the stature to begin turning things around.

But only if Romney loses.

If Romney were to win the White House on Tuesday, deep reflection would go into the deep freeze. Republicans would not bother to correct any of the things that they would have blamed for their defeat if they had lost — because no matter how serious the flaws are, as long as they aren’t fatal, they don’t matter. In politics, the only unforgivable flaw is losing.

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Tom Rosshirt, Creators Syndicate

If Tom Rosshirt had been a great athlete, Tom Rosshirt would have spoken of himself in the third person. Alas, I was not (even close). Instead, I moved to Washington 20 years ago with the goal of working in politics. Timidly, I entered every one of 56 Senate Democratic offices, raised my hand until I was called on, and then handed the receptionist every newspaper column I had ever written (three) and a letter declaring: “will write for free” -- my standard fee at the time. After some hurtful exchanges, including a phone call with Lloyd Bentsen’s press secretary -- who said, “You could always learn to type” -- I became an unpaid intern in Sen. Tom Harkin’s office, where I learned to fax. Shortly after, I was hired as press secretary for Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who later became president of the NAACP. Rep. Mfume took my first-ever speech to the podium, rolled it into a cylinder and used it to beat at the air like a baton. “Nice speech,” he told me. In 1997, I was hired as a domestic policy speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore and, shortly thereafter, became his foreign policy spokesman -- traveling with the VP to places like London, Davos, Kiev, Cape Town, Moscow, Kuala Lumpur and Charlotte. One day, I met with the VP before a CNN interview to brief him on the latest in allegations that the Chinese had stolen nuclear secrets from Los Alamos. During the interview, Wolf Blitzer must have asked the vice president who had created the Internet or something. I had not anticipated this line of questioning. I am sorry for what happened. As the 2000 campaign loomed and our second child was born, I left the position of “the-guy-in-charge-of-announcing-that-Gore-is-not-responsible-for-corruption-in-Russia-and-AIDS-in-Africa” and instead took refuge in the calm of the National Security Council, where I wrote foreign policy speeches for President Bill Clinton. In 2001, I joined Clinton speechwriters Jeff Shesol and Paul Orzulak in starting West Wing Writers, a Washington-based writing and communications firm. President Clinton was our first client. At West Wing, I wrote, strategized and managed crises for famous people engaged in good causes. In 2009, I left West Wing for the life of a sole practitioner (and to spend more time with my family, whether they like it or not). I consult with businesses, foundations and nonprofits. When I was young, I was a high-school teacher and coach. Before I was young, I went to Notre Dame and majored in philosophy. I later got a master's degree and began a doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where I pursued an independent study of lofty psychological and spiritual states -- none of which I have ever achieved. I have two occasionally wonderful children and have been married to their beautiful and talented mother since 1989. I have asked permission to publish her name here: (Name withheld by request.) That’s it. No embellishing. I’ve given up all hope of a better past.

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Mitt Romney, FEMA, and Hurricane Sandy

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Although my neighborhood in northern Delaware was right in the projected bull’s eye for Hurricane Sandy, we came out of it with just two power outages, each of less than one day, and a few wet basements. Coastal residents of Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and other states were not so fortunate, victims of historic and unprecedented storm surges of sea water.

The nation has been shocked by the death and devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, and inspired by the heroism of the nation’s first responders. President Obama has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to insure that those first responders have the resources they need to bring relief to suffering Americans, for which he has been praised by both Republican and Democratic governors, including Republican Convention keynoter Chris Christie of New Jersey.

Mitt Romney told us what he thinks of FEMA back on June 13, 2011, when in response to a direct question about FEMA from CNN’s John King who was moderating a Republican presidential primary debate, Romney said that FEMA’s responsibilities should be removed from the federal government and transferred to the states, and that if they could be transferred “back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

When John King incredulously asked, “Including disaster relief?”, Romney replied that, “We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids.”

After Romney’s improvised “storm relief” political event in Ohio on Tuesday, the press pool report for the event states, and video tape confirms, that Romney was asked at least five times if he would eliminate FEMA, but in each case refused to answer the question. At that event, Romney demonstrated his empathy by collecting canned goods for storm victims, and comparing disaster relief to volunteers picking up the litter from a football field.

Romney running mate Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, which actually passed the Republican controlled House of Representatives, would only have cut 41 percent from the government function that includes FEMA and disaster relief. Would Ryan’s political inspiration Ayn Rand, or Mitt Romney, have thought that cut sufficient?

Finally, Romney expressed his contempt for any concern over climate change in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. In that speech, Romney mocked President Obama’s stated concern over climate change and specifically rising sea levels.

Romney smiled as he said, “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans…” At this point Romney paused for jeers and laughter from the partisan audience before continuing, “… and heal the planet.” Even louder jeers and laughter. Romney smiled some more.

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Jan Ting

Jan Ting is a Professor of Law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and a former Assistant Commissioner for Refugees, Asylum and Parole, Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice. Jan can be reached at janting@temple.edu.

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Where Romney and Obama Stand on the Supreme Court

Photo courtesy of Scott Robinson

The Supreme Court has remained a largely unspoken topic on the campaign trail — even though the Court plays a critical function in Americans’ lives. (This past June’s Affordable Care Act ruling, anyone?)

The next president could very well appoint one or two new justices. And who steps down first could also depend on who’s elected.

Mitt Romney hasn’t said much about the Supreme Court, apart from expressing disagreement with the Court’s ruling on Obamacare. But his website states the candidate would nominate judges “in the mold of” the Court’s conservatives — Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts (the last two of whom a then-Sen. Obama voted against confirming). It also says Romney would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

President Obama, of course, has appointed two liberal justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, the nation’s first Hispanic justice. His past remarks indicate a preference for nominees who bring “common sense” and “pragmatism” to the table, who’d blend constitutional analysis with “a sense of what real-world folks are going through.”

Legal challenges to such key social issues as same-sex marriage, gun rights, immigration and separation of church and state are likely to be heard by the Supreme Court in the coming years. One justice is all it may take to tip the scale in these cases.

So what exactly have the candidates said, and why hasn’t the Supreme Court been a bigger issue? Let’s take a look.

Mitt Romney

Romney has spoken out against the president’s first-term Supreme Court picks.

In April, Romney told the National Rifle Association that he’s opposed to judges “who view the Constitution as living and evolving, not timeless and defining.”

“In his first term, we’ve seen the president try to browbeat the Supreme Court. In a second term, he would remake it,” Romney said. “Our freedoms would be in the hands of an Obama Court, not just for four years, but for the next 40. That must not happen.”

Romney has occasionally embraced recent Supreme Court decisions. He praised the Court’s unanimous January 2012 ruling in a religious liberty case that allowed for a “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws. He favorably cited another unanimous March 2012 ruling that made it easier for property owners to challenge compliance orders from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The candidate has been vocal about abortion. In June 2011, Romney wrote that he felt Roe v. Wade was a “misguided ruling that was a result of a small group of activist federal judges legislating from the bench.” Early this year, Romney repeated that position, and again in April during an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer.

His running mate, Paul Ryan, also touched on the Court’s role when it comes to abortion. “We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination,” Ryan said in the vice-presidential debate.

As Vice President Joe Biden pointed out during this debate, one of the people heading Romney’s panel of advisers on judicial appointments is Robert Bork, a Reagan Supreme Court nominee who failed to win Senate confirmation in 1987 over fears he would vote to strike down a range of issues, including Roe v. Wade.

(Biden, then the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helped lead the opposition. The vacancy to which Bork was nominated eventually went to Justice Anthony Kennedy, typically the Court’s swing vote.)

On another note, Romney would have a deep bench from which to select judicial nominees, given Republicans’ vigorous focus on this area. (CNN has compiled a list of likely nominees, including former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement — who argued the Affordable Care Act challenge — and an assortment of conservative federal appellate judges.)

“Romney would appoint people with a more conservative judicial philosophy, who are not transforming the Constitution, not sticking up for the rights of any particular group and are very neutrally interpreting the law,” said Curt Levey, president of Committee for Justice, an organization that promotes conservative judicial candidates.

President Obama

If Obama is reelected, there is strong speculation that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court’s oldest member at 79, will retire to make room for a replacement. In that event, argue some, the president would likely nominate another woman (two other justices are also approaching their late 70s: Scalia and Kennedy are both 76.)

“[Obama] would place value on racial and ethnic diversity, but it wouldn’t be determinative,” said Tom Goldstein, co-founder and regular contributor to SCOTUSBlog, which provides news and analysis of the Court’s decisions. “President Obama hasn’t really pushed for very liberal nominees.”

Back in 2008, Obama shed light on his thoughts about the subject.

In remarks to the Detroit Free Press, then-Sen. Obama said he would seek Supreme Court nominees who recognize “that one of the roles of the courts is to protect people who don’t have a voice,” for instance, “the vulnerable, the minority, the outcast, the person with the unpopular idea, the journalist who is shaking things up.”

That same year, Obama, who taught constitutional law at University of Chicago Law School, praised former Justice David Souter and current Justice Stephen Breyer — both considered liberal votes — as “very sensible judges.”

“They believe in fidelity to the text of the Constitution, but they also think you have to look at what is going on around you and not just ignore real life,” he said.

Obama has made clear he supports Roe v. Wade, which has been narrowed in the face of new challenges.

In 2010, shortly after Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement, Obama told Senate lawmakers he’d apply no “litmus test” to potential nominees.

“But I will say that I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women’s rights,” the president said, eventually nominating Kagan for the vacancy.

In February 2011, Obama spoke out against the Defense of Marriage Act, which seeks to impose a definition of marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, and instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the law in court. (A second federal appeals court recently struck down the law as unconstitutional; some predict the issue could next be headed to the Supreme Court.)

Although the president has been criticized for taking his time with judicial appointments in the lower federal courts — a gateway to the Supreme Court — he’s also named more ethnic minorities to the bench than any of his predecessors.

More Discussion?

So, why hasn’t there been more discussion about the Supreme Court on the campaign trail? It’s a question that’s been raised again and again, especially since justices, who are appointed for life, serve on average about 30 years.

One possible explanation is that the Supreme Court strategically took itself out of the political calculus earlier this year when it narrowly upheld the health care law.

“[The issue] would have played out a little differently if the Supreme Court had struck down the health care act,” SCOTUSBlog’s Goldstein said. “It’s really hard for the president to run against the Court that has just upheld his signature legislative achievement by a whisker.”

But the silence could also just convey a perceived lack of interest among the public.

“I think the candidates realize that the Supreme Court doesn’t move independent voters,” said Goldstein, even though “the president makes a radical difference in the composition of the judiciary.”

 

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Suevon Lee, ProPublica

Suevon Lee has previously worked as a reporter for the Ocala Star-Banner where she covered courts and legal issues. She earned a master of studies in law degree from Yale Law School in 2012 and master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 2006.

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John Stossel: Ann Coulter Tries to Defend Romney

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Mitt Romney tells people he won’t fire federal workers or cut education spending. He says he’ll spend more on the military. He sounds like a big-government guy. Or is he just pandering for votes?

Ann Coulter came on my TV show to defend Romney.

“What you call pandering is called getting elected,” Coulter said.

Romney says he’ll repeal Obamacare. Great! But he wants to keep popular parts: coverage for pre-existing conditions and keeping grown kids on their parents’ policies until age 26. Those mandates are popular. But that’s not insurance. That’s welfare.

“If we do not repeal Obamacare in the next few years, America takes the first step into 1,000 years of darkness. … Romney is far more free market than any recent Republican candidate, including George Bush. What Romney is talking about here is the free market.”

But that’s not the free market. It’s a forced handout.

“If it’s popular, it will be provided on the free market. There are insurance products we can’t even think of, including buying insurance for your unborn children. … The problem with health care — and the reason Romneycare was a libertarian solution for a governor to provide because the governor can’t repeal all the federal government stuff — is that right now, you already have government intervention. Government pays for nearly 50 percent of all health care in America. It is already 50 percent socialist. Romney is going to roll it back, apply free-market magic, and everything you want covered is going to be covered.”

But he says he will force every insurance company to cover pre-existing conditions.

“He’s not saying ‘force.’ … The free market will cover it. I promise you that’s what he means.”

Really? He does say, “Pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.” That sounds like force. A free market is voluntary. But I decided to move on.

Romney wants to increase military spending. America is going broke, and yet we still spend about as much on “defense” as all other countries combined. How can we afford this?

“For one thing, I do trust Romney to cut a lot of government — more than Ronald Reagan did. That’s why we need Romney right now as much as we needed Reagan in 1980. This is a free-market guy. He saved companies from going into bankruptcy. He saved the Olympics from going into bankruptcy. In Massachusetts — the Soviet Union — he balanced the budget and cut taxes. You need someone who’ll go through the budget line by line and look at the things that can be cut.”

But he says he’s going to increase military spending by $2 trillion!

“With a booming economy we’re going to have under Romney, we will have so much money we won’t know where to spend it.”

I moved on again. In one debate with Obama, Romney said, “I don’t have any plan to cut education funding.” He doesn’t? Why not? Education is a local responsibility. The federal government wastes $100 billion every year, intruding on local schools. But Romney won’t even cut that?

Coulter wouldn’t defend her candidate on that point.

“But I will just say in his defense … he said, ‘We want to send that money to the parents.’ He’s talking about vouchers there.”

My last complaint about Romney was his promise to label China a currency-manipulator, and if China doesn’t respond, raise tariffs. So he wants a trade war? That would hurt everyone. And raising tariffs means Americans pay more for things.

“You’re having a kneejerk reaction to the word ‘tariffs.’ … That’s not the issue. The issue is the intellectual (property) theft. … Every libertarian I know is very concerned about intellectual theft.”

Well, some libertarians don’t think that’s theft, but that’s another story. Romney mostly talks about the Chinese currency, not intellectual property, and yet currency manipulation is something our Federal Reserve has been known to do. If China devalues its currency, Chinese people suffer, but we Americans get to buy cheaper products. We win!

Coulter dodged my argument. “If we continue for five more seconds on currency manipulation,” Coulter said, “I’m going to need a bottle of NoDoz.”

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John Stossel, Creators Syndicate

John Stossel, Creators SyndicateAward-winning news correspondent John Stossel is the author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed."

John is currently with Fox Business Network and Fox News. Before making the change to Fox News, Stossel was the co-anchor of ABC News's "20/20." Eight to 10 million people watched his program weekly. Often, he ended "20/20" with a TV column called "Give Me a Break," which challenged conventional wisdom.

Stossel's prime-time specials on myths, parenting issues, sex and trends in pop culture rate among the top news programs and have earned him uncommon praise: "The most consistently thought-provoking TV reporter of our time," said The Dallas Morning News. The Orlando Sentinel said he "has the gift for entertaining while saying something profound."

Stossel takes this reporting expertise and applies it to his weekly newspaper column for Creators Syndicate. Ready to cover topics newspaper readers care about, Stossel pokes fun at the ridiculous and lauds the excellent.

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Chuck Norris: Barack Obama, Spin Master

Photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson

The definition of spin is to apply a slant or particular emphasis to information, as to persuade or deceive.

President Barack Obama really has been pounding the pulpit the past few days, with the election right around the corner, with the help of his speechwriters. He sounds a lot like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. About the only thing Obama hasn’t said is “God damn America,” as Wright did.

Obama has to pound his chest and beat the drum to rev up the Democratic base. Thank goodness that the only thing Mitt Romney has to do to rev up the Republican base — and, I hope, independents and undecided voters — is to talk common sense.

Obama can spin a fact, and even though it’s wrong or untrue, we almost believe it. Then he sends his minions out to spin the same fact, hoping that if we hear it enough times, we finally will believe it. The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is a prime example. Even though Obama knew — from the moment of the assault — that it was a terrorist attack, he didn’t let the American people know. We recently learned a drone was recording the attack in real time, and our president was watching from the Situation Room. It is clear that he chose to deceive the American people deliberately, saying it was a mob protest and blaming it on a video that nobody had seen.

My wife, Gena — who is a lot tougher than I am — and I are fighting mad with all the lies and distortions coming out of the White House. When I film a movie, I can kick the bad guy’s butt. But here, all I can do is hope, pray and vote. So that is what we have to do! We have to get everyone out to vote for the only man who can get us out of this mess, Mitt Romney.

Unfortunately, Obama didn’t have the experience to fix the economy, which he promised the American people he’d do. However, there were two things that would have been easy for him to accomplish. He promised to televise on C-SPAN all new bills presented to Congress, including Obamacare. However, Obama conveniently forgot that promise when his administration cut backroom deals with drug industry lobbyists, medical groups, union bosses, insurance industry representatives and lawmakers during Obamacare negotiations.

In a second broken promise, Obama assured us he wouldn’t allow special interest groups and lobbyists to influence his policies. However, he regularly has granted exclusive White House access to his biggest donors, who bring their lobbyists with them. In fact, Democratic National Committee officials urged lobbyists to solicit personal checks from corporate executives and rewarded them with premium credentials and hotel rooms at the Democratic National Convention. So much for integrity and honesty!

Folks, we are at a crossroads this election. We could elect a president who would keep us on a losing streak, Obama, or we could elect a president who has the expertise to get us on a winning streak, Romney. Boy, is that a no-brainer!

I am a martial artist first and an actor second. I am definitely not a politician. I’ll leave that to experienced people like Romney.

So I am going to evaluate this election as a martial artist. I am a 10th-degree grandmaster and have studied the martial arts for more than 50 years — 15 of those years as a fighter and instructor, teaching thousands of students before going into the film business.

I was also able to achieve great success as a martial arts fighter and, through years of dedication and hard work, became a world champion. Why am I telling you all of this? Because Mitt Romney is that same kind of fighter. With his business acumen, he would be successful in turning our country around for a brighter future.

Romney is an incredibly successful businessman, which means he would focus on job growth and get small business up and running again. In a bipartisan fashion, Romney was very successful as the governor of Massachusetts. And he turned a failing Olympics around and made it one of the most successful Olympics in years. Most importantly, he and his wife, Ann, donate about 30 percent of their income to charity — more than Obama and Vice President Joe Biden combined.

So if I were going to promote Romney to a belt rank based on all of his qualifications, it would be a black belt.

Now let’s look at Obama’s record. I already have mentioned a couple of his failures. Obama’s failures are even more apparent when we look at his extremely limited background in the private sector and his complete lack of experience in running a business. That lack of experience means he doesn’t fully appreciate the following:

1) Accountability to American consumers, employees and investors.

2) Balancing budgets, maximizing revenue and closely monitoring spending (at the risk of sinking your company if you fail).

3) Long hours, hard work and great personal investment with merely keeping a business afloat.

4) Intense competition with other businesses in the private market.

5) High personal risk and no taxpayer-funded safety net or bailout if your business flops.

6) A devastating impact from soaring tax hikes and government regulations on your ability to stay in business.

7) A solid understanding of free market principles and job creation strategies.

So, after evaluating all of Obama’s qualifications, I would promote him to white belt, as I would all beginners. And I’m sure that if, God forbid, he were to get re-elected, at the end of four years he still would be a white belt.

Folks, Obama is the chief executive of our great nation. Without a firm understanding of these principles, how could he lead America back from the brink of economic collapse and even more widespread unemployment?

I will admit that Obama is a gifted speaker and very charismatic, but he is just not a leader, and our economy would only get worse in the next four years if he were to be re-elected. I’m not going to bring up all the things he has lied about. All I’m going to say is that a president who is dishonest with the American people does not deserve a second term.

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Chuck Norris, Creators Syndicate

Chuck Norris is one of the most enduringly popular actors in the world. He has starred in more than 20 major motion pictures. His television series “Walker, Texas Ranger,” which completed its run in April 2001 after eight full seasons, is the most successful Saturday night series on CBS since “Gunsmoke.” It is seen in more than 80 countries worldwide, ranking as one of the top U.S. shows in both sales and audience. A New York Times best-selling author of two books, including the 2004 autobiographical “Against All Odds,” Norris also has penned two books of fiction. Set in the Old West, the most recent installment of this series, “A Threat to Justice,” was published in September 2007. In 2006, he added the title of columnist to his illustrious list of credits with the launch of his popular Internet column on the independent news site WorldNetDaily.com. Norris’ commentaries have become so widely read that he was signed recently by Los Angeles-based Creators Syndicate to market his column to newspapers across the country

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Why I’m Against Exceptions for Rape and Incest

Photo courtesy of Tom Anthony

Politicians hone the art of the non-answer. The stock—often flippant—thing they say when asked a direct question; their go-to platitudes. For example: “What would you do about the war in Afghanistan?” Answer: “Listen to the commanders on the ground.” Translation: I wouldn’t DO anything. Another fave is saying, “I’d leave it up to the states.” It’s a way to not give your opinion and display a basic knowledge of civics. Slavery, segregation and later miscegenation were all state laws—but the “up to the states” verbal tic still sounds reasonable when said by a name on a yard sign.

But perhaps the worst, due to its lack of challenge in the stenographic media, is the answer on any abortion question: “I’m against it except for instances of rape, incest or the life of the mother.”

This (at least sometimes) is Mitt Romney‘s stance on abortion. It wasn’t his running mate, Paul Ryan‘s, until he joined the ticket. But Romney, after being staunchly pro-choice disclosing his family friend, Ann Keenan, died of an illegal abortion in 1963, now says he’d like to see it illegal once again. Except, he says, for women who are victims.

Romney and victims: It’s becoming a theme. If you worked at one of the companies Romney took over at Bain, Texas Governor Rick Perry called you a victim of “vulture capitalism.” Romney assesses a whopping “47 percent of Americans see themselves as victims” and the only way to get a medical procedure legally in Romney’s America is, yes, to be a victim.

What sounds like a not-so-extreme position on abortion rights is actually much worse than an outright ban.

If there are exceptions for ending a pregnancy requiring the recipient prove she was raped, two things happen: 1) Just as with total criminalization—abortion goes back underground. 2) Rape is trivialized.

The accusation of rape has always been plagued by the counter-accusation of an ulterior motive. “She’s trying to destroy a good man.” “It’s just the remorse talking!” “This is blackmail.”

Or as Paul Ryan-endorsed Wisconsin State Rep. Roger Rivard put it last week, “Some girls rape so easily.”

To put this into perspective, think of what Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky‘s victims had to endure to get justice: Sports fans rioted on campus after they came forward.

In order to terminate a pregnancy women who are raped will have to defend themselves against yet another charge: She just wants to get an abortion.

An exception for rape means not only ending legal abortions, it means profoundly changing rape.

As with anything, if abortion moves out of the light, it will find its place in the shadows, and then we’re back to where Mitt Romney’s family friend, Ann Keenan, found herself in 1963: bleeding to death from a botched back alley abortion.

Abortion rates don’t change with legality. A 2007 study by the World Health Organization found the same number of women who want abortions get abortions regardless of whether or not they’re legal. What changes is the numbers of women who die of unsafe procedures. In fact, the study noted, in Ethiopia abortion was completely illegal and also the second leading cause of death among women in that country. If you want to save lives—you want legal abortions, sex education and widely available birth control.

This rape clause is horrible public policy. This is not anything remotely resembling how a free country functions. This is not valuing life. It’s valuing easy answers to viscerally complicated issues.

If you morally disagree with abortion, then I suggest you don’t get one. But to nationalize women, to make their bodies legally akin to public incubators, is not the kind of country we want to live in.

It’s a country we should keep in our rearview. Abortion needs to stay legal, and most importantly—private.

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Tina Dupuy

Tina Dupuy Tina Dupuy is a native New Yorker born in exile.

The daughter of biblical brimstone hippie revolutionaries, her parents were members of a splinter sect so fringe it makes normal cult apologists shudder. This has given her a rather unique take on life. “My parents were missionaries, not to be confused with ‘mercenaries’ because that would actually be cool.”

Tina’s childhood was spent as glorified luggage, living in several countries on two continents and eventually attending nine elementary schools. The most stable home she had was an adolescent all-girls group home in Northern California where she made few friends by being an (alleged) stuck up nerd who “thought she was better than everyone else.”

Tina’s life long ambition of being a paleontologist was thwarted by the siren call of freelance journalism. An irreverent yet unassuming humorist, Tina is a natural for the work. ”Prostitutes are known for their hearts of gold, you never hear anyone say that about satirists,” she laments.

Sometimes a reporter, sometimes a comedian – always a wedge-issue enthusiast and devout skeptic – Tina is anaward-winning writer, investigative journalist, the former managing editor of Crooks and Liars . Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC, and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The PointThe Stephanie Miller Show and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Mother JonesThe AtlanticSkeptic, Fast CompanyAlternetLA Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.

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Confessions of a Political Junkie

Photo illustration courtesy of Donkey Hotey

My wife looked grief-stricken when I walked into the kitchen this morning. She was staring at her computer screen, and I worried that she’d received an email about a death in the family, or worse, that the Boston Red Sox had re-hired Bobby Valentine.

But she just got some bad poll numbers. Someone had tweeted Karl Rove saying that no one who’d ever been winning the Gallup poll among likely voters this late in an election had ever lost, and Gallup had Romney up 7. I’d just come down from that bad trip when I read Nate Silver‘s blog post on The New York Times website that Gallup was a frequently inaccurate outlier and everyone else has the race basically tied. “He still says Obama’s got about a 70-percent chance of winning,” I told her. I might as well have told her to avoid the brown acid.

Hi, I’m Jason Stanford, and I’m a political junkie.

Hi, Jason!

“Not everybody is comfortable with the idea that politics is a guilty addiction. But it is. They are addicts, and they are guilty and they do lie and cheat and steal — like all junkies,” wrote Hunter S. Thompson. “And when they get in a frenzy, they will sacrifice anything and anybody to feed their cruel and stupid habit, and there is no cure for it. That is addictive thinking. That is politics — especially in presidential campaigns. That is when the addicts seize the high ground.”

I don’t want to get clean. I just want to know if we’re winning. If the polls are right, then Obama is beating Romney in early voting, which is good, right? But those who plan to vote on Election Day overwhelmingly support Romney. Augh! But as long as Obama holds his lead in Ohio, he wins, right? Not if Romney takes Iowa, though. On the other hand, Florida is a must-win for Republicans, and Obama is up among registered voters but losing among likely voters. Oh dear.

I yearn for the relative peace of the Cold War. Say what you will about the constant threat of nuclear annihilation, it was dependable. Getting yo-yoed by public polling has made me insane. I’d go to yoga to calm down, but I’m afraid that while everyone else was in downward dog, I’d stand up and shout, “What’s wrong with you people? Obama has fallen behind in Virginia!” It’ll be a moral victory for me if the only thing I punch in the next two weeks is a ballot.

This is what I get for linking my emotional well-being to the polls. I study them like a cardiologist looking at EKG results. Obama’s job approval rating is over 50 percent! Romney’s favorables are underwater! I compulsively recheck swing state polls during the day, seeing the South slip away and hoping that a Rust Belt firewall is forming. I can recite Electoral College scenarios with annoying alacrity, and my prize for this treasure trove of information is a constant state of nauseating anxiety.

Instead of a break, I keep looking for my next fix. I even spent time this morning watching Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan riff with Michelle Obama about Malia’s first homecoming dance and whether the First Lady prefers the President in boxers or briefs. “None of the above,” she said. What? No! I panicked that Michelle’s joke tanked among swing voters, but then I calmed myself with the idea that maybe it was helping him with schwing voters.

See? Crazy.

If you’re not like me, there’s still hope for you. Pay no heed to the polls and the pundits in the last two weeks left in the campaign. We’re in the fog of war when reliable intelligence is hard to come by, and the only productive thing to do is reload. If you want your guy to win, get off the couch and get out the vote.

Of course, what do I know? I’m the idiot who thought Rick Perry was going to be the Republican nominee.

Oops.

Thanks to the gifted and talented Donkey Hotey for the photo illustration.

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Jason Stanford

Jason StanfordJason Stanford is a Democratic political consultant and opposition researcher based in Austin. He served as 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell's campaign manager and chief spokesman. As the head of Stanford Research, he leads opposition research for various candidates and interest groups across the region.

Stanford moved to Texas in 1994 to work as a Deputy Press Secretary for the Ann Richards Committee. Jason and a former colleague founded Stanford Ryan Research & Communications, Inc. in January 1997. The firm became Stanford Research in 1999.

He’s the co-author of “Adios, Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush”, and has a degree in Russian from Lewis & Clark College.

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Obama’s Class Warfare: Don’t Get Fooled Again

Photo courtesy of Thomas Miller

Have you noticed how the Obama campaign has stepped up its class warfare rhetoric as we draw closer to Election Day?

President Barack Obama constantly resorts to this tactic because he’s simply unable to defend his own record in office, as 23 million Americans are out of work or underemployed and the economy remains in distress.

Class warfare is all he has left.

But voters aren’t buying Obama’s polarizing rhetoric. In a Gallup survey about the 12 most important priorities this election year, the issue of “increasing taxes on wealthy Americans” came in dead last among voters. Understandably, Americans are far more concerned with issues such as “creating good jobs,” “reducing corruption in the federal government” and “reducing the federal budget deficit,” among other important priorities.

Nonetheless, Obama relentlessly attacks Mitt Romney‘s prosperity, as if being a successful businessman — who takes financial risks and creates jobs — were an automatic disqualifier for anyone running for the nation’s highest office.

During the second presidential debate last week, Obama hammered Romney for his financial success and played the class warfare card:

—”I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours, so it doesn’t take as long.” (In fact, Obama has a larger pension than Romney.)

—Obama attacked Romney’s “$20-million-a-year” income. (Romney actually made $13.7 million in 2011 and gave nearly 30 percent of his income to charity.)

—He also accused Romney of shielding the wealthy from paying “a little bit more” in taxes.

—He stated: “I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that’s how our economy’s grown.”

Obama claims to support free enterprise, self-reliance and individual initiative, but his actions say otherwise. He has forced on America a federal takeover of health care, increased oppressive regulation of private business and sustained massive government spending, and he has expanded our nation’s welfare rolls by 32 percent. He even attacks corporations while accepting campaign funds from the same ventures he condemns. (Ironically, Obama has accepted nearly $120,000 from Bain Capital executives, is the top recipient of funds from BP, has investments in Chinese companies and through a Cayman Islands trust, and staffed his own Cabinet with wealthy CEOs.)

In 2008, Obama famously told Joe the Plumber of his plans to confiscate money from small businesses: “It’s not that I want to punish your success; I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you — that they’ve got a chance at success, too. … I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

In 2010, he arrogantly remarked, “I do think at a certain point, you’ve made enough money.”

In July, Obama attacked business again, saying, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” (As I explained in an earlier column, that “somebody” to whom Obama referred was in fact the federal government.)

In other acts of class warfare, the president embraced the anarchist Occupy movement, pitted labor unions that heavily fund his campaign against the private sector and blatantly condemned capitalism.

Meanwhile, Obama likes to say his tax increases would affect only “millionaires” and “billionaires,” but the actual hikes would hit couples with incomes of $250,000 or higher.

The president claims to want to raise taxes on the rich, but he’d be raising taxes on many of our nation’s job producers. He’s using his class warfare rhetoric to fool voters.

What do business-savvy employers do when burdened by crushing tax hikes? They look for options to reduce their taxable income.

Facing the increased cost burden of Obamacare, businesses are looking for ways to avoid dealing with the soaring costs associated with the president’s health care takeover — including potential layoffs and slashing employee hours.

Obamacare is the very definition of a class warfare ploy because it drains the lifeblood from America’s producers to subsidize the uninsured. Though “free” insurance may sound like a good idea in theory, increasing the burden on companies will force them to cut employees and their benefits to stay in business.

When businesses shed employees, revenue collected by federal and state governments as payroll taxes declines, as well. That’s a lose-lose situation for our nation. The best way to get Americans back to work is to grow our economy and reduce tax burdens on our nation’s job creators.

When it comes to raising taxes and increasing regulations, there’s no limit to what Washington will impose. Where does it end?

What exactly does Obama consider “fair”?

Obama wants you to believe that big government is good, that profit is evil and that “spreading the wealth” improves the lives of all Americans.

He wants you to believe he would help the middle class by promoting job creation and boosting the economy — but he has failed to do so in the past four years. And now he’s desperate.

Americans are tired of being pitted against one another by this administration. What they really want are jobs, a robust economy and a true leader who won’t resort to class warfare in an effort to distract voters and divide our great nation.

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Chuck Norris, Creators Syndicate

Chuck Norris is one of the most enduringly popular actors in the world. He has starred in more than 20 major motion pictures. His television series “Walker, Texas Ranger,” which completed its run in April 2001 after eight full seasons, is the most successful Saturday night series on CBS since “Gunsmoke.” It is seen in more than 80 countries worldwide, ranking as one of the top U.S. shows in both sales and audience. A New York Times best-selling author of two books, including the 2004 autobiographical “Against All Odds,” Norris also has penned two books of fiction. Set in the Old West, the most recent installment of this series, “A Threat to Justice,” was published in September 2007. In 2006, he added the title of columnist to his illustrious list of credits with the launch of his popular Internet column on the independent news site WorldNetDaily.com. Norris’ commentaries have become so widely read that he was signed recently by Los Angeles-based Creators Syndicate to market his column to newspapers across the country

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Who Is the Real Mitt Romney?

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

My favorite story about Mitt Romney is a very flattering one.

The 14-year-old daughter of a Bain partner of Romney’s went out to play tennis one Saturday afternoon near her home in Connecticut and didn’t come back. Her frantic parents learned the next morning that she had gone into New York City for a party with friends. But then the friends returned home without her. Over the next few days, the distraught father walked alone through the streets of Manhattan, looking for his daughter. Then he confided in Romney.

Romney shut down the Bain offices and flew several dozen Bain partners and employees to New York, where they set up a command center at the LaGuardia Marriott, hired a private investigator, set up a tip line, coordinated with the NYPD, asked their printer, R.R. Donnelley, to print 300,000 fliers with the young woman’s face on them and started to paint the town with those posters.

They explained the situation to business partners at Price Waterhouse, Goldman Sachs, Bankers Trust and Morgan Stanley, who added some 200 volunteers to the search. Bain employees and their investment banker buddies got copies of the Village Voice; started looking for clubs, parties and concerts; and then set out on foot to search for the missing child. Romney himself went through rave clubs in New York, talking to kids with spiked hair and nose rings, showing photographs of the young woman, asking whether anyone had seen her.

She was found in the home of a teenage kid in New Jersey, suffering from an overdose of Ecstasy. She had been traced by police after the kid called the tip line and then hung up.

Being inside the circle of people Romney cares about is a very lucky place to be.

The Washington Post did a lengthy profile earlier this year on Romney and his faith, highlighting examples of Romney’s efforts to support and protect immigrant members of his church and finessing questions of how they got here. One group of recent Haitian immigrants in Boston was eager to get money from church headquarters to fund a new building for the young congregation. Romney urged them to make their case for a new building by increasing church attendance. On some Sundays, to help them along, Romney would show up with 20 members of his family.

That is the real Mitt Romney.

What about the other Mitt Romneys? What about the Romney who took a position to the right of Texas Gov. Rick Perry on immigration? What about the Romney who said there are 47 percent “who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them”?

That is the real Romney, too.

The Romney who ridicules Obamacare is real. And just as real is the Romney who said proudly in the second debate, “As governor of my state, I was able to get 100 percent of my people insured, all my kids, about 98 percent of the adults.”

(“All my kids” — that was Romney’s best line of the night.)

These are all the real Mitt Romney.

The question “Who is the real Mitt Romney?” just has the wrong construction. It assumes that there is some fixed “Mitt Romney” that is real, everything else is false and if we only knew which one is real, we would know how he would act as president.

Personality is a fluid thing — a changing blend of tendencies meeting circumstances. There might be some exceptional people with just a few fixed principles that they act on in every circumstance, but these people don’t run for president, or if they do, they don’t run very far.

In some settings, Romney has shown he is motivated by wealth and power. In other settings, he is motivated by compassion. These are obviously often competing motivations. So the question is not who the real Mitt Romney is but what setting he is in. What are the dominant incentives in that setting?

Would the set of incentives that would surround him in the Oval Office be like the incentives he faced in his role as a family man and neighbor, as a Mormon bishop, as the governor of Massachusetts or as a candidate for the Republican nomination, or would they be like something else entirely?

If we can answer that, we might get a sense of how he would act as president. But in any case, we should get over asking about the real Mitt Romney. All the Mitt Romneys are real — even if some look very different from others.

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Tom Rosshirt, Creators Syndicate

If Tom Rosshirt had been a great athlete, Tom Rosshirt would have spoken of himself in the third person. Alas, I was not (even close). Instead, I moved to Washington 20 years ago with the goal of working in politics. Timidly, I entered every one of 56 Senate Democratic offices, raised my hand until I was called on, and then handed the receptionist every newspaper column I had ever written (three) and a letter declaring: “will write for free” -- my standard fee at the time. After some hurtful exchanges, including a phone call with Lloyd Bentsen’s press secretary -- who said, “You could always learn to type” -- I became an unpaid intern in Sen. Tom Harkin’s office, where I learned to fax. Shortly after, I was hired as press secretary for Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who later became president of the NAACP. Rep. Mfume took my first-ever speech to the podium, rolled it into a cylinder and used it to beat at the air like a baton. “Nice speech,” he told me. In 1997, I was hired as a domestic policy speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore and, shortly thereafter, became his foreign policy spokesman -- traveling with the VP to places like London, Davos, Kiev, Cape Town, Moscow, Kuala Lumpur and Charlotte. One day, I met with the VP before a CNN interview to brief him on the latest in allegations that the Chinese had stolen nuclear secrets from Los Alamos. During the interview, Wolf Blitzer must have asked the vice president who had created the Internet or something. I had not anticipated this line of questioning. I am sorry for what happened. As the 2000 campaign loomed and our second child was born, I left the position of “the-guy-in-charge-of-announcing-that-Gore-is-not-responsible-for-corruption-in-Russia-and-AIDS-in-Africa” and instead took refuge in the calm of the National Security Council, where I wrote foreign policy speeches for President Bill Clinton. In 2001, I joined Clinton speechwriters Jeff Shesol and Paul Orzulak in starting West Wing Writers, a Washington-based writing and communications firm. President Clinton was our first client. At West Wing, I wrote, strategized and managed crises for famous people engaged in good causes. In 2009, I left West Wing for the life of a sole practitioner (and to spend more time with my family, whether they like it or not). I consult with businesses, foundations and nonprofits. When I was young, I was a high-school teacher and coach. Before I was young, I went to Notre Dame and majored in philosophy. I later got a master's degree and began a doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where I pursued an independent study of lofty psychological and spiritual states -- none of which I have ever achieved. I have two occasionally wonderful children and have been married to their beautiful and talented mother since 1989. I have asked permission to publish her name here: (Name withheld by request.) That’s it. No embellishing. I’ve given up all hope of a better past.

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