Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Theater of the absurd

No one said extending the payroll tax cut in Congress by December 31 would be a walk in the park. But did we really expect it to turn into another marathon with multiple detours?

After a rare display of bipartisanship on Monday on a spending bill to keep the government running through 2012, Tuesday gave way to another day of bitter back and forth, in which Democrats and Republicans aimed to out-maneuver and out-smart each other.

The Republicans managed to pass their payroll tax cut bill in the House with the controversial measure to speed up the decision on green-lighting the Keystone oil pipeline. It almost certainly won’t make it through the Senate and the White House made clear today that President Obama will veto it if it does. He’s decided the Keystone pipeline has to wait until after the elections and won’t be dragged into this debacle.

In theory, the House-approved bill clears the way for the two sides to compromise and get the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits extended by year end. It’s pretty clear that most Republicans and Democrats want to give the boost to voters and the fragile American economy. And the White House says it still expects an “eleventh hour” deal. But after watching the elaborate political theater that played out on Tuesday, it’s anyone’s guess when cooler heads might prevail.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

U.S. lawmakers in showdown over payroll tax cuts
U.S. Republican and Democratic lawmakers are locked in an end-of-year fight that threatens a government shutdown, an effective tax hike for 160 million Americans and the loss of benefits for millions of unemployed. With just days left to resolve the crisis, both parties traded recriminations on Tuesday even as they tried to out-maneuver each other for political advantage in a high-stakes battle that will likely carry over into the 2012 elections.

from Political Theater:

Rick Perry promises to speak the truth in new ‘Politically Correct’ ad

Rick Perry appropriates the idea of political correctness in his latest television ad, a thirty-second video denouncing Washington as "the capital of political correctness, where double speak reigns and the truth is frowned upon.”

“You can’t say that Congressmen becoming lobbyists is a form of legal corruption," Perry says in the ad. "Or that we give aid money to countries who oppose America. Or that Washington insiders are bankrupting social security.”

Here's the video, courtesy of rickperry.org:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzUIJVerqN4&feature=player_embedded

Credit: rickperry.org/YouTube

No jump start for Perry campaign in New Hampshire

The wheels on Rick Perry’s bus will go round and round Iowa, where he’ll make 49 stops between now and the Jan. 3 Republican presidential caucus, his campaign announced last night.

Missing from his schedule are any stops in New Hampshire or South Carolina — the two states Perry visited in August to announce his run — which will vote on Jan. 10 and Jan. 21, respectively.

The one-time Republican frontrunner had invested substantial time in both states, making 25 campaign appearances in 11 days in New Hampshire and 21 stops over nine days in South Carolina since announcing his bid, according to data compiled by the Washington Post.

Is Rick Santorum’s favorite Marxist quote for real?

By James Ledbetter
The views expressed are his own.

Which is stranger: the idea that on the campaign trail GOP presidential longshot Rick Santorum cites favorably a quotation from a quasi-Marxist social critic? Or that the quotation itself might be spurious?

For years, Rick Santorum has said that one of his favorite sayings is: “We all get up every day and tell ourselves lies so we can live.” He attributes it to the iconoclastic historian and social critic Christopher Lasch, best known as the author of The Culture of Narcissism, a hugely popular jeremiad against modern American capitalism published in 1979.

Santorum likes the quote enough to cite it in a variety of contexts. In 2004, he used it during a Senate debate to explain his opposition to same-sex marriage. In a Washington Post article this week, he appeared to use it to explain how he carries on a demanding, uphill campaign when he has a young daughter with a life-threatening disease whom he rarely gets to see.

Romney uses Mormon faith to deflect attention from wealth

Romney rarely has spoken about his religion during the primary campaign, conscious perhaps of polls showing that as many as half of white evangelicals believe the Mormon religion is not a Christian faith. In one of the few times he has highlighted his church, he made Rick Perry seem intolerant for refusing to disavow Pastor Robert Jeffress’s assertion that Mormonism is a “cult.”

Now Romney is talking about Mormonism in order to head off the perception that he’s an out-of-touch rich guy  — a view reinforced by his attempt to silence Perry’s attacks on his healthcare record by offering him a $10,000 bet during Saturday’s Republican presidential debate. Given his personal wealth, estimated at $250 million, Romney needs to avoid any more moments that make him look like Judge Elihu Smails, the country club president from “Caddyshack” who tried to use his money and background to purge the club of undesirables like the brash outsider Al Czervik, played by Rodney Dangerfield (and, yes, Caddyshack culminated in a bet between the two).

Today at a lumber mill in northern New Hampshire, Romney hearkened back to his ten years spent moonlighting as a Mormon pastor while living in Boston. That work included counseling those who had lost their jobs or were in dire financial circumstances. “What struck me, not having grown up in poverty, was revealing and important to me,” he said.

Washington Extra – End in sight

President Obama didn’t bite when asked by a White House reporter today if he still thought the U.S. war in Iraq was “a dumb war.” Back in 2002, he could get away with such a blunt statement. As president, and with the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at his side, he needed to be more subtle.

Up the two men went to Arlington Cemetery, their motorcade driving past the white grave stones of wars past and present, canon shots firing in the background, until they arrived at the Tomb of the Unknowns. A military band played both countries’ anthems, Obama stood with his hand over his heart for both songs while Maliki stood erect with his hands by his sides.

Obama said it was Maliki who wanted to go to Arlington, but it turned out to be a fitting, if somber way for Obama to close this chapter. By going to a place where the costs of war are so much in evidence, he was able to answer the “dumb war” question in a serene, statesman-like way.

Gay Vietnam vet tackles Romney

Republican Mitt Romney probably didn’t know what hit him in a Manchester diner on Monday when he tucked into a booth to make small talk with an older man wearing a “Vietnam Vet” baseball cap.

Romney has been vocal in opposing cuts to U.S. military spending, and chatting up a veteran would seem like an easy warm-up to a day on the campaign trail.

But military spending wasn’t on the mind of Bob Garon, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

Newark mayor campaigns for Obama, hits Romney’s “business experience”

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, campaigning in New Hampshire for President Obama, lit into one of Republican Mitt Romney’s main arguments for his candidacy: his business experience.

The former Massachusetts governor rarely misses an opportunity to remind voters that he spent “25 years in the private sector” and “understands the real economy,” unlike President Obama.

Booker took issue with that argument after a stump speech for Obama in Plymouth, N.H., and made his point by singling out fellow Democrat and former New Jersey Governor and ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine, who is at the center of the collapse of brokerage firm MF Global.

from Political Theater:

New ad from pro-Romney SuperPAC hits on Gingrich’s weaknesses

The pro-Romney SuperPAC Restore Our Future has released a video ad warning that Obama's "plan" to "brutally attack Mitt Romney and hope Newt Gingrich is his opponent" because "Newt has a ton of baggage" is working.

The video goes on to outline Gingrich's potential vulnerabilities, including ethics violations, lobbying profits, flip-flopping on issues, and immigration. Check it out:

Credit: RestoreOurFuture and YouTube.

from Political Theater:

New Perry ad bashes Gingrich, Romney on health care mandate

A day after releasing an incendiary ad condemning gays serving in the military and "Obama's war on religion," the Perry campaign has put out a new campaign video, this one focused on his rivals' stances on the individual mandate.

"We don't want government-mandated health care," says a voice-over in the ad:

Yet Newt Gingrich supports it.

And Mitt Romney -- he put it into law in Massachusetts.

Worse, Barack Obama forced it on the entire nation.

Rick Perry? He'll repeal it, starting day one.

The video cuts to Perry, walking through the same scenic outdoor background as yesterday's ad (though wearing a different jacket), who tells viewers he's an "outsider" and "won't let the big government liberals ruin this country."

Check out the ad, via rickperry.org, below. And be sure to catch his spin-and-grin at the 0:26 mark: