Note To The AP: It's Called Pandering

The AP reports on last night's Republican spanish language Univision debate, the third debate catering to a problematic demographic for the GOP where several of the candidates had originally passed, citing "scheduling conflicts"; after the top tier candidates were roundly criticized for missing a minority issues debate in September, magically their schedules freed up for this hispanic issues forum allowing most of the candidates to attend.

The headline pretty much sums up the thrust of the article:

GOP hopefuls temper anti-immigrant talk

In other words, it was more panderific than the debates focused on an issue or a demographic group usually are, of course The AP doesn't come out and say so.

When the expected immigration questions came, the candidates kept true to their stands but abandoned the tone. They sounded virtually the same, praising legal immigrants, calling for a more secure border and arguing that illegal immigration is unjust to foreigners who want to come to the United States through proper channels. Not a single candidate referred to them as "illegal aliens," a term many Hispanics find objectionable.

Indeed, there was no vitriol. No pointed accusation from Mitt Romney that as mayor Rudy Giuliani permitted New York City to give sanctuary to illegal immigrants. And no riposte from Giuliani that Romney had a "sanctuary mansion" because his landscaper employed illegal workers.

The funniest thing about the article is that it couches the punch pulling as a political lesson learned rather than a temporary shift in rhetoric for the audience in the room. The professor who taught that lesson? Mike Huckabee.

No more unbridled attack lines or bitter rejoinders. If there was a model to follow, it was Mike Huckabee, who during a previous free-for-all debate kept his elbows to himself and now sits atop some public opinion polls.
The implication being, of course, that Huckabee's non-combative compassionate conservative rhetoric is responsible for his ascension in the polls and that just may be true, but the idea that the other candidates are going to adopt a more compassionate or civil tone on immigration in their upcomingEnglish language debates is laughable. John McCain has tried and it hasn't helped him. And the idea that in future debates they're going to pull punches, especially now that Huckabee has taken the lead, come on. No, you can expect the next debate to be full of targeted attacks on Huckabee, no punches pulled.

The most telling aspect of the debate last night is not what was said or what wasn't said, it was who wasn't there: nativist 1%er, Tom Tancredo. Almost gotta admire the guy, he refused to fake it. The rest of them clearly didn't have that problem.

There's more...

In The Name of Religious Unity, Romney Divides

From Romney's faith in America speech yesterday:

"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

This was some serious dogwhistle messaging to the Christian right. As I wrote yesterday:

Now he's setting up secularism as a common enemy with the religious right: the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

In the name of unity (i.e. bringing Christians who are skeptical of his faith into the fold) and religious tolerance Romney was actually perpetuating an ongoing and quite divisive culture war between the right and the left. Today, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks calls Romney out.

When this country was founded, James Madison envisioned a noisy public square with different religious denominations arguing, competing and balancing each other's passions. But now the landscape of religious life has changed. Now its most prominent feature is the supposed war between the faithful and the faithless. Mitt Romney didn't start this war, but speeches like his both exploit and solidify this divide in people's minds. The supposed war between the faithful and the faithless has exacted casualties.

The first casualty is the national community. Romney described a community yesterday. Observant Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Jews and Muslims are inside that community. The nonobservant are not.

I am used to being considered a cultural enemy of the right so it didn't strike me as odd to hear this language in Romney's speech but Brooks is right and it begs the question: would Romney be a president to the faithless?

TPM is on it:

A spokesman for the Mitt Romney campaign is thus far refusing to say whether Romney sees any positive role in America for atheists and other non-believers, after Election Central inquired about the topic yesterday.

No real upside to his answering this during the primary unless the media forces him to, which I hope they do. In the general, however, if he gets that far, Romney's going to have to come up with an answer.

Update [2007-12-7 17:25:43 by Todd Beeton]:I must say, I'm really intrigued that Romney is getting so much pushback from the right for excluding "the faithless" from the happy little America he imagines himself governing. Dave Dayen at The Right's Field alerts us that Peggy Noonan's taken offense as well.

There was one significant mistake in the speech. I do not know why Romney did not include nonbelievers in his moving portrait of the great American family. We were founded by believing Christians, but soon enough Jeremiah Johnson, and the old proud agnostic mountain men, and the village atheist, and the Brahmin doubter, were there, and they too are part of us, part of this wonderful thing we have. Why did Mr. Romney not do the obvious thing and include them? My guess: It would have been reported, and some idiots would have seen it and been offended that this Romney character likes to laud atheists. And he would have lost the idiot vote.

My feeling is we’ve bowed too far to the idiots.

Umm, ya think? But where have these guys been? They've sat back while their party has waged this culture war and now they're finally calling foul? It seems that Romney has exposed a dirty little secret about the GOP, that it has a secularist wing to it as well, one whose Republicanism is borne out of greed and bowing at the altar of corporatism, and they're sick of the fealty to the theocratic wing, especially by Romney whom they'd considered one of their own. As Dayen notes, what we are seeing here is nothing short of a crack-up of the Republican coalition.

La Noonan couldn’t have made it more clear than that; theocrats and so-called “values voters” are idiots, whose intolerance doesn’t fit with the model of America. Of course, if any Democrat said this, there would be pure outrage. But that Noonan said it reflects the strain between the theocons and the econocons.

There's more...

Romney's "JFK Speech" On Faith In America

Mitt Romney will speak at 10:30am EST from the George H. W. Bush library at Texas A&M to address his faith a la JFK in 1960. In a speech he's reportedly written himself, according to The LA Times, his intention was not to address Mormonism directly but instead to "discuss his concern that 'faith has disappeared from the public square.'" (Which, as Dave Dayen at The Right's Field notes, is the exact opposite of JFK's point in his speech, but whatever, Mitt.)

All in all, this strategy is probably wise. In an appearance on Face The Nation in October, when asked about his faith, Romney was downright incoherent. On one hand, when asked if he took Mormonism's teachings literally, he said:

I do. I'm not gonna try to distance myself in any way shape or form from my faith.

But when confronted with a specific teachings of his religion, he wouldn't answer it:

SCHIEFFER: I`m told that the Mormons teach that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri. Is that correct?

ROMNEY: You know, there are probably the right folks to give you the answers to questions related to Mormon teachings. So I`ll probably let them respond to questions about specific doctrines.

According to excerpts from his speech, as prepared (TPM has them,) Romney intends to try to have it both ways, by playing up his Christian bona fides but also insisting that he actually shouldn't have to answer specific questions about his faith because the constitution prohibits a "religious test," setting up an interesting tension between the two documents that people, depending on their view of religion in politics, insist should guide our nation.

"When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."

...

"There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths."

Will be interesting to see if he can pull this balancing act off. There are large swaths of the Republican primary electorate who do not want to hear that any religion other than their own should be seen as equaly valid, which appears to be part of Romney's point today.

Update [2007-12-6 10:40:2 by Todd Beeton]:Romney seems nervous. He is not a natural speech giver. He looks like he's reading. 2 minutes in, he's said "freedom" 10 times or so. He's directly addressing JFK. "Almost 50 years ago, another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president...I do not define my candidacy by my religion...Let me assure you that no authorities of my church or of any other church for that matter will ever exert influence on presidential decisions."

Update [2007-12-6 10:43:6 by Todd Beeton]:Finally, some applause at 10:39am: "If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one causecause and no one interest. A president must serve on the common cause of the people of the United States."

Update [2007-12-6 10:47:25 by Todd Beeton]:Geez, now he's actually answering his thoughts on Jesus Christ. "I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind. My church's beliefs about Christ may not be the same as those of other faiths...these are not bases of criticism but rather a test of our tolerance." So, so much for the 'no religious test' thing, eh, Mitt?

Update [2007-12-6 10:47:25 by Todd Beeton]:His first genuinely good line: "No candidate should should become the spokesman for his faith for if he becomes president, he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths." Much applause.

Update [2007-12-6 10:50:16 by Todd Beeton]:Now he's setting up secularism as a common enemy with the religious right: the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

Update [2007-12-6 11:8:33 by Todd Beeton]:"Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of god, not an indulgence of government." This got some delayed applause, Romney had actually already begun his next thought. This guy really does not give a good speech. But hey, if he throws enough instances of "liberty" and "freedom" he's good with this crowd.

Update [2007-12-6 11:8:33 by Todd Beeton]:He's playing on people's nationalism, saying that one of the things that separates us from Islamic extremists is our religious tolerance. In other words, you don't like me for my religion, you're a terrorist, simple as that.

Update [2007-12-6 11:8:33 by Todd Beeton]:Chris Matthews: "If he wins the presidency, it started here...I heard greatness here." Gag. Pat Buchanan: "I don't know how he could have done it better." Joe Scarborough: "He hit this out of the park." My what a diverse crew MSNBC has covering this event. I will say one person on Chris's panel got it exactly right, I don't know her full name, first name is Sally, who said:

"I think it was an obliteration of the idea of the separation of church and state...if you believe in God or Christ you're on my side, if not, you're not."

Pretty much.

Update [2007-12-6 11:15:2 by Todd Beeton]:The reviews of his speech seem to be raves, which is very good news, I'd love to run against Romney. Sadly for Mitt, though, the cable news channels have cut away from their raves about him to give updates on the Omaha mall shooting. But never fear, Mathhews will no doubt continue his genuflection on Hardball later today.

There's more...

Republican NH Polls

On the Republican side, in addition to Fox News, there is also a new Rasmussen poll (881 LVs, 11/29, MOE +/-3%) and the ARG poll (600 LVs, Nov. 26-29) from earlier today, which I've included below as well.

Here we have some seriously mixed messages with Fox as the likely outlier. While ARG and Rasmussen show Huckabee surging into the mid-teens into third place, Fox shows him still lagging in a distant 4th. Alternatively, Fox seems to inflate McCain's support, which, at 21% is well above either the ARG or the Rasmussen and a solid 5% above his recent average. It's probably safe to say that both Romney and Huckabee are upwardly mobile in New Hampshire. Giuliani's status, on the other hand, is a mystery. Is he in solid 2nd place (ARG,) tied for a distant 2nd place (Rasmussen,) or somewhere in between (Fox.) This is key as he (and/or the media) has essentially established  a 2nd place finish in New Hampshire as a must to continue to be viable for South Carolina and beyond. Fred Thompson's prognosis on the other hand is clear: dead man walking.

Fox NewsRasmussen (Nov. 5)ARG (Oct. 26-29)RCP 5-poll Ave.
Romney2934 (32)36 (30)33.2
McCain2115 (16)11 (17)15.6
Giuliani1915 (17)22 (23)18.4
Huckabee714 (10)13 (7)9.2
Paul48 (4)2 (1)6
Thompson43 (7)3 (5)3.2
Don't Know14

There's more...

Wingers' Heads Explode, Demand YouTube Debate "Do-Over"

This is sort of fun to watch. Wingnuts' heads are exploding over the political affiliations of some of the questioners at last night's debate. It all began, as you know, with the question about Don't Ask Don't Tell asked by Keith Kerr, retired Colonel., U.S. Army; retired Brigadier General, California National Reserve. Turns out that, while he is a registered Independent and has not given money to the Clinton campaign, his name is listed as a member of Hillary Clinton's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual Americans For Hillary Steering Committee. CNN has apologized but RedState is anything but satisfied. They're mad as hell and they...want a do over?

This headline appeared on RedState today:

CNN's Performance Was Unacceptable. There Should Be A Do Over of This Debate.

Umm, are they kidding? The Republican candidates didn't even want to do it in the first place. But alas, it doesn't stop RedState from calling for the following:

1) Republican candidates for President should boycott CNN.

2) Republican viewers should boycott CNN until they fire Sam Feist, their political director; and David Bohrman, Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of the debate.

3) One or more of the Republican candidates should demand a do over wherein we can have a substantive debate about substantive issues that exclude CNN's agenda, which is clearly out of touch with the Republican party, and the drivel we saw from YouTube.

Their outrage stems, of course, from their complaint that CNN used questions from "liberals" to advance their "liberal agenda;" In other words: that CNN didn't screen the questions to their satisfaction in order to weed out anything resembling a diversity of opinions.

CNN's pre-debate spin was that

This would be a Republican debate, and the goal was to let Republican voters see their candidates.

This debate was not about Republicans asking the Republican candidates questions. This was about CNN abusing its position to push a Democratic agenda.

To fan the flames, Michelle Malkin is doing her usual stalking job on several of the questioners and has uncovered support for some of the Democratic candidates. God forbid!

The thing is, as Sadly No! reminds us, Republicans, and perhaps more importantly, Republican talking points, were not exactly banned from the Democratic CNN/YouTube debate.

Back to the tubes...

What the wingers are really upset about here is that a record breaking audience of almost 5 million people (not including online viewers) watched the Republican candidates reveal themselves to be the fringe wackos that they are.

There's more...

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