The Pasty Little Putz has come up with an unspeakable piece of crap called “President in Shining Armor” in which he drools that the Obama campaign has been making a weirdly paternalistic pitch to women. Apparently it’s “weirdly paternalistic” to say rape is rape. He also mentions “an imaginary Republican plot to ban contraception.” Imaginary, my ass. MoDo has extruded something called “Of Mad Men, Mad Women and Meat Loaf” in which she babbles that as Election Day looms, Barry strives for hipness as Mitt embraces fuddy-duddy. It’s amazing — MoDo has a relative for every occasion, similar to how The Moustache of Wisdom runs into those cab drivers. Speaking of The Moustache of Wisdom, today he explains “Why I Am Pro-Life.” He says if you respect the sanctity of life, then it shouldn’t be limited solely to the issue of abortion. Finally. Maybe one day some columnist somewhere will call the current crop of Republican “pro life” candidates what they REALLY are — forced birth proponents. Mr. Kristof has a question: “Want a Real Reason to Be Outraged?” He says American politicians say some outrageous things about rape. But our policies toward rape victims can be even more insensitive. Mr. Bruni tells us about “Obama’s Squandered Advantages” and says despite the troubled economy, President Obama should be ahead of Mitt Romney. So why isn’t he? Of course, there’s no mention in here of anything that the President has done, mind you… Just carping and whining. Here’s the unspeakable crap from the Putz:
Far in the future, long after today’s partisan passions have cooled, some enterprising women’s studies doctoral student will be able to write a fascinating dissertation on the rhetoric and iconography surrounding gender in Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign.
Such a dissertation might start with the Obama campaign’s striking “Life of Julia” slide show, which portrayed an American woman protected from toddler-hood by the “steps President Obama has taken,” and menaced at every turn by Mitt Romney’s reactionary policies.
From there, it could touch on the campaign’s unusual suggestion that Obama supporters use their wedding registries to solicit donations to the president’s re-election effort. It might linger over the White House’s elevation of Sandra Fluke, a progressive activist and Georgetown University law student, as a kind of martyr for free contraception after she was insulted by Rush Limbaugh. And it would probably conclude with the Obama campaign’s release last week of a winking video from “Girls” creator Lena Dunham, urging young women to make sure their “first time” is with a “great guy” like President Obama. (Their first time voting — what do you think she meant?)
To today’s Obama supporters, these forays — like the campaign’s broader “war on women” framing, and its recent attempts to make the election a referendum on abortion in cases of rape — just emphasize that the president is on the side of female empowerment, sexual, professional and otherwise.
But given the way Obama’s once-enormous edge among female voters has shrunk in many polls, tomorrow’s feminists may look back on his campaign’s pitch to women and see a different theme emerge: a weirdly paternalistic form of social liberalism, in which women are forever single girls and the president is their father, lover, fiancé and paladin all rolled into one. (Our future dissertation author may note with bemusement, for instance, that Dunham’s ad mirrors a similar advertisement cut for … Vladimir Putin.)
This paternalistic pitch assumes that liberalism’s traditional edge with women is built mostly on social issues, and that Democrats — especially male Democrats — win when they run as protectors of the sexual revolution, standing between their female constituents and the Todd Akins of the Republican Party.
But that conceit is probably wrong. The gap between men and women on issues like abortion is overstated, and the female preference for Democrats predates Roe v. Wade. In a recent blog post, Christina Wolbrecht of the University of Notre Dame calls the gender gap “a recurrent, if not consistent, feature of presidential elections throughout the postwar era,” which probably dates to Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign.
Not coincidentally, that was a year when Republican economic rhetoric took on a particularly individualistic cast. If there’s a deep driver of the gender gap, it’s usually views about spending and the role of government. Men are more likely to be libertarian, women are more likely to be communitarian, and this creates what Wolbrecht calls a natural “divergence in preferences for social welfare policies.”
This helps explain why, among recent elections, the gender gap yawned widest in 1996 — not an election with many culture-war flash points, but a year when Bill Clinton relentlessly tied Bob Dole to the Congressional Republicans’ attempted cuts to domestic spending and entitlements.
It also helps explain why Romney made ground with women after his performance in the first presidential debate — when he mostly pivoted toward the center on economic issues, and emphasized solidarity and community rather than “you built that!” individualism.
None of this means that the Obama White House’s social issues appeals don’t resonate with many female voters. But they’re most successful as a form of narrowcasting — a pitch to a particular group of women, often younger and left-leaning and unmarried, rather than to the female population as a whole.
Which is why it once seemed safe to assume that Obama’s social issues strategy was a way of solidifying his base, and a warm-up act for the fall campaign. He would extol Planned Parenthood and hail Sandra Fluke all summer, the theory went, and turn Clintonian and talk mostly about entitlements and economic security after his convention.
Instead, the idea of Obama as a kind of knight protector for America’s Julias and Lenas and Sandras, waging a lonely counteroffensive in the war on women, has basically become the White House’s concluding pitch not only to his base, but to female undecided voters as well.
An imaginary Republican plot to ban contraception, the illusory threat that Mitt Romney would ban abortion in cases of rape, a wave of faux-chivalric outrage over Romney’s line about “binders full of women” — in a tight-as-a-tick, economy-centric election, this is the message that Obama is relying on to push him back over the top.
Perhaps it will actually work. Perhaps the Electoral College will save the president. But I’ll just say this: It’s awfully hard to imagine Hillary Clinton closing out a campaign this way.
Here’s a heaping plate of salted weasel dicks, Putzy. Hope you enjoy them. Now here’s MoDo and her oh-so-convenient relative:
My sister, who was a secretary in the “Mad Men” era, is not worried that Republicans want to drag us back to being secretaries in the “Mad Men” era, as Tina Fey suggests.
Peggy is that most sought-after creature, an undecided woman who is a swing voter. She started as a blond concrete block in President Obama’s female firewall, but like many other women, is now pondering divorcing him for the man who looks and darn well talks like a ’50s sitcom dad.
She does not believe the economy is getting better, and she trusts Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan not to do anything radical on women’s reproductive rights or Medicare. She rejects my contention that Republicans in Congress would force them to; they see Mitt as an empty suit who would happily sign their far-right bills as long as he got Air Force One.
Our mom, a strict Catholic, taught us that it was immoral for a woman to be expected to carry a rapist’s baby for nine months. (Don’t even mention that rapists can assert parental rights in 31 states.)
But compassion is scant among the Puritan tribe of Republicans running now. As The Huffington Post reports, at least a dozen G.O.P. Senate candidates oppose abortion for rape victims. The party platform calls for a constitutional amendment with no exceptions for rape, incest or the mother’s life.
Representative Todd Akin, running against Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri, differentiated between rape and “legitimate rape,” implying that women would fake rape to get abortions, and suggested that women have a magic way not to get pregnant from rape.
Representative Joe Walsh, running for re-election in Illinois, contended that “with advances in science and technology, ‘health of the mother’ has become a tool for abortions of any time or for any reason.” Appalled obstetricians ticked off a litany of life-threatening situations.
Last week, Richard Mourdock, a Senate candidate in Indiana, said in a debate that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Mitt was certainly no profile in courage after Mourdock’s comment blew up. He didn’t take back his endorsement. He hid from reporters on his plane, and even dodged his usual custom of giving a reporter a birthday hug. Instead, he broadcast a birthday message to her on the intercom from the safety of first class.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that many women support Romney, even though he has somersaulted on reproductive rights and his running mate sponsored a bill with Akin giving fertilized eggs the “legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.” Just as it shouldn’t be surprising that Romney has the support of a huge swath of blue-collar white men, even though he’s on a mission to make the 1 percent 100 percent able to indulge in car elevators.
Republicans are geniuses at getting people to vote against their own self-interest. Hispanics, however, do not seem inclined to vote against their self-interest on immigration laws, and Obama is counting on that to buoy him.
After the draining W. years — when grumpy old men foolishly refought grumpy old wars — Barack Obama was going to sweep us to modernity.
But, as the Republican strategist Alex Castellanos notes, “He gets to Washington and calls Larry Summers.” The only hope and change Obama could conjure this time was changing the period on his campaign slogan — “Forward.” — to an exclamation point. Romney was right when he spoke at a rally in Iowa on Friday and said the president had made the election “about small, shiny objects.”
Mitt may have peaked too soon. Now he is left counting on what advisers call “the silent majority.” Obama’s support among white voters has dived, and news reports call this the most racially polarized race since 1988. John Sununu, shockingly still a Romney surrogate, offered another flash of thinly veiled racism when he suggested that Colin Powell endorsed the president because they both were black, a comment he recanted. Sarah Palin said Obama was guilty of “shuck and jive” on Benghazi.
The high-minded Obama is trying to be hip, trash-talking Mitt in Rolling Stone, going on MTV to chitchat about hip-hop, joking with Jay Leno about his childhood in Kenya with Donald Trump. His campaign has a new ad with Lena Dunham, the creator of “Girls,” slyly comparing your first vote to “your first time.” The ad agitated some conservatives — one used Twitter to align Dunham and Obama with Satan — but was harmless. Ronald Reagan had a racier version 32 years ago.
Mitt hopes Americans are ready for some rules — and binders. He is baked in the fuddy-duddy dad image from the era when white men ruled and the little women toiled over a hot stove. On Thursday, Ann Romney made his annual birthday treat, meatloaf cakes, on Rachael Ray’s show while the candidate collected the endorsement of Meat Loaf, another blast from the past who balked at the notion that the cold war was over.
Mitt may have my sister. But he still needs Ohio.
MoDo’s sister would seem to be as mentally unstable as MoDo is getting. Here’s The Moustache of Wisdom:
Hard-line conservatives have gone to new extremes lately in opposing abortion. Last week, Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party-backed Republican Senate candidate in Indiana, declared during a debate that he was against abortion even in the event of rape because after much thought he “came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” That came on the heels of the Tea Party-backed Republican Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois saying after a recent debate that he opposed abortion even in cases where the life of the mother is in danger, because “with modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” in which a woman would not survive without an abortion. “Health of the mother has become a tool for abortions anytime, for any reason,” Walsh said. That came in the wake of the Senate hopeful in Missouri, Representative Todd Akin, remarking that pregnancy as a result of “legitimate rape” is rare because “the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.”
These were not slips of the tongue. These are the authentic voices of an ever-more-assertive far-right Republican base that is intent on using uncompromising positions on abortion to not only unseat more centrist Republicans — Mourdock defeated the moderate Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana in the primary — but to overturn the mainstream consensus in America on this issue. That consensus says that those who choose to oppose abortion in their own lives for reasons of faith or philosophy should be respected, but those women who want to make a different personal choice over what happens with their own bodies should be respected, and have the legal protection to do so, as well.
But judging from the unscientific — borderline crazy — statements opposing abortion that we’re hearing lately, there is reason to believe that this delicate balance could be threatened if Mitt Romney and Representative Paul Ryan, and their even more extreme allies, get elected. So to those who want to protect a woman’s right to control what happens with her own body, let me offer just one piece of advice: to name something is to own it. If you can name an issue, you can own the issue. And we must stop letting Republicans name themselves “pro-life” and Democrats as “pro-choice.” It is a huge distortion.
In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children. You can call yourself a “pro-conception-to-birth, indifferent-to-life conservative.” I will never refer to someone who pickets Planned Parenthood but lobbies against common-sense gun laws as “pro-life.”
“Pro-life” can mean only one thing: “respect for the sanctity of life.” And there is no way that respect for the sanctity life can mean we are obligated to protect every fertilized egg in a woman’s ovary, no matter how that egg got fertilized, but we are not obligated to protect every living person from being shot with a concealed automatic weapon. I have no respect for someone who relies on voodoo science to declare that a woman’s body can distinguish a “legitimate” rape, but then declares — when 99 percent of all climate scientists conclude that climate change poses a danger to the sanctity of all life on the planet — that global warming is just a hoax.
The term “pro-life” should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth. What about the rest of life? Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth. That radical narrowing of our concern for the sanctity of life is leading to terrible distortions in our society.
Respect for life has to include respect for how that life is lived, enhanced and protected — not only at the moment of conception but afterward, in the course of that life. That’s why, for me, the most “pro-life” politician in America is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While he supports a woman’s right to choose, he has also used his position to promote a whole set of policies that enhance everyone’s quality of life — from his ban on smoking in bars and city parks to reduce cancer, to his ban on the sale in New York City of giant sugary drinks to combat obesity and diabetes, to his requirement for posting calorie counts on menus in chain restaurants, to his push to reinstate the expired federal ban on assault weapons and other forms of common-sense gun control, to his support for early childhood education, to his support for mitigating disruptive climate change.
Now that is what I call “pro-life.”
Next up is Mr. Kristof:
The silliness began when Todd Akin claimed during his Senate campaign in Missouri that in the case of “legitimate rape,” women “shut that whole thing down” to prevent pregnancy. Then, a few days ago, Richard Mourdock of Indiana seemed to blame God for such pregnancies, saying this was “something God intended to happen.” I think God should sue him for defamation.
But our political system jumps all over verbal stupidity, while giving a pass to stupid policies. If we’re offended by insensitive words about rape, for example, shouldn’t we be incomparably more upset that rape kits are routinely left untested in the United States? And wouldn’t it be nice if Democrats, instead of just firing sound bites, tackled these underlying issues?
A bit of background: A rape kit is the evidence, including swabs with DNA, taken at a hospital from a woman’s (or man’s) body after a rape. Testing that DNA costs $1,200 or more. Partly to save money, those rape kits often sit untested for years on the shelves of police storage rooms, particularly if the victim didn’t come outfitted with a halo.
By most accounts, hundreds of thousands of these untested kits are stacked up around the country. In Illinois, 80 percent of rape kits were going untested as of 2010, Human Rights Watch reported at the time — embarrassing the state to begin a push to test all rape kits.
In Michigan, the Wayne County prosecutor, Kym Worthy, said she was shocked to discover more than 11,000 rape kits lying around untested — some dating to the 1980s. Worthy said that her office is now going through the backlog and testing those that are running into statute of limitations deadlines.
So far, of 153 kits tested, 21 match evidence in a criminal database and may involve serial rapists. But Worthy, who herself was raped while she was in law school, says the broader problem is indifference to sex crimes.
“Sexual assault is the stepchild of the law enforcement system,” she said. “When rape victims come into the criminal justice system, they are often treated poorly. They may be talked out of pursuing the case.”
The bottom line, Worthy said, is that “sexual assault is not taken as seriously as other crimes.” That — more than any offensive words — is the real scandal.
Kamala Harris, the attorney general of California, eliminated the rape kit backlog in state crime labs after she took office. “If you don’t test it, you’ve got a victim who is absolutely petrified, and you’ve got a rapist who thinks he got away with it,” she said. “There could be nothing worse as a continuing threat to public safety.”
The lackadaisical attitude toward much sexual violence is seen in another astonishing fact: Sometimes, women or their health insurance companies must pay to have their rape kits collected.
“No other forensic evidence collection is treated in this way,” said Sarah Tofte of the Joyful Heart Foundation, which has focused attention on the rape kit backlog. If her home is broken into, she notes, the police won’t bill her or her homeowner’s insurance company “for the cost of dusting for fingerprints.”
Yet another indication of cavalier attitudes: In 31 states, if a rape leads to a baby, the rapist can get visitation rights. That doesn’t happen often, but the issue does come up. In Massachusetts, a convicted rapist is suing for access to the child he fathered when he raped a 14-year-old girl.
One way to start turning around this backward approach to sex crimes would be to support the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (Safer) Act, a bipartisan bill in Congress that would help local jurisdictions count and test their rape kits.
According to data from the Department of Justice, one person in the United States is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes. A slight majority of rapes are never reported to the police, and others are never solved. For every 100 rapes, only three lead to any jail time for the rapist, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
There has been plenty of outrage this year, justifiably, at the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts and Penn State for averting their eyes from sexual abuse of children. Yet America as a whole typically does the same thing when it comes to the trafficking of teenage girls by pimps, which amounts to rape many times a day. The police often treat those girls as criminals, rather than victims, even as the pimps get away.
These problems are not insoluble, and we are seeing progress. Some prosecutors are going after pimps in a serious way, and according to surveys, sexual assault has fallen by 60 percent over the last couple of decades. Even the furor over the comments by Senate candidates shows that times are changing.
So, sure, let’s pounce on politicians who say outrageous things. But even more, let’s push to end outrageous policies. Routine testing of rape kits would be a good start.
Last but not least, let’s get to Mr. Bruni’s fine whine:
After “a couple of Cadillacs,” a summer belly-flop abroad, a dismissive swipe at 47 percent of the population and a convention best remembered for Clint Eastwood’s chat with a chair, Mitt Romney is seemingly tied with President Obama. He has a real chance. It’s a remarkable turn of events, given how many errors he’s made and how ill suited he is to this particular juncture in the American story. And to size up the situation honestly is to consider one conclusion as seriously as any other:
Obama isn’t quite the candidate, or politician, he’s cracked up to be. The One is a fraction of his reputed self.
Yes, I know: the economy. It’s supposedly the source of most of his woes, the great weight he lugs around, a nearly fatal handicap. And the fact that he’s doing as well as he is affirms the sway of his personality and sense of his policies, at least according to his most fervent admirers.
I don’t buy it. For starters, a great many Americans understand that he doesn’t bear primary responsibility for the high rate of unemployment and the drops in home prices and incomes. A CNN/ORC poll last month showed that 54 percent of likely voters placed the blame chiefly on George W. Bush and Republicans.
Additionally, 68 percent indicated some optimism about economic conditions, which they said would be “somewhat good” or “very good” in a year. There’s room in those numbers for Obama to pull well ahead of a rival as profoundly flawed as Romney. Yet he hasn’t.
Race isn’t a sufficient explanation. It has flared in subtle and unsubtle ways during this campaign, but if a majority of Americans were too biased to vote for a black man, Obama wouldn’t have beaten John McCain by nearly 200 electoral votes last time around. In fact Obama’s 52.9 percent of the popular vote was a bigger number than all but three other Democrats in American history have reached.
And “super PACs” aren’t doing Obama in. Things could change in this final stretch, but until now, he hasn’t been buried under the avalanche of Republican ads that, six months ago, Democrats were terrified about. Obama and his supporters have in fact run more commercials, which seem to have reached a larger audience in some key battlegrounds, than Romney & Co. have.
Obama has enjoyed other advantages as well. He didn’t go through a contested primary, and as Matt Bai recently observed in The Times’s Sunday magazine, all three of the incumbent presidents who lost their re-election bids over the last 36 years were weakened by primary challengers. Romney, meanwhile, endured an ugly primary that tugged him to the right of most swing voters and teed him up for the shape-shifting he has attempted — and been justly dinged for — over the last month.
Romney is further tarnished by association with a Republican Party that seems to be accommodating more and clumsier extremists, whose statements — like the one that Richard Mourdock, a Senate candidate from Indiana, made about abortion and rape — cause him recurring grief. That’s not to mention the party’s grandstanding windbags, two of whom — Donald Trump and John Sununu, a co-chairman of Romney’s campaign — were in full and demented flower over the last few days.
The country’s changing demographics favor Obama, as he acknowledged to The Des Moines Register last week, saying that the Latino vote could seal his victory. Incumbency has its benefits, too. Earlier this year, he sidestepped a bickering, paralyzed Congress and pleased many Latino voters with an executive order that will probably spare hundreds of thousands of young immigrants deportation for at least two years.
But Obama’s greatest gift has been Romney himself, whose wealth, his tin-eared allusions to it, his offshore accounts and his unreleased tax returns are an especially awkward fit for a moment of increased anxiety about income inequality.
A “Saturday Night Live” skit from before the debates summarized this archly.
“Our campaign has a secret weapon,” says Obama.
The camera cuts to Romney at a rally. “I understand the hardships facing ordinary Americans,” he says. “One of my horses failed to medal at the Olympics.”
Back to Obama, who croons “Let’s Stay Together.”
And then to Romney, who warbles “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” declaring the song “pretty groovy.”
Obama smiles: “The man is a Christmas miracle.”
The miracle ended at the first debate, in Denver, and the problem with that face-off went beyond Obama’s sleepwalking to the kinds of subsequent debates it forced on him. To shake off what happened, he had to turn truculent, and while that technically “won” him his second and third meetings with Romney, he lost something in the bargain. He undercut his high-minded, big-vision brand, whole stanzas of doggerel intruding on the poetry.
His “bayonets” line was clever all right, and plenty fair in its way, but it had a schoolyard nastiness to it, the same nastiness in one of his campaign’s most prominent ads, which showcases Romney’s off-key rendition of “America the Beautiful.” I wonder how that line, that ad and the overall atmospherics register with voters in the middle, some of whom are no doubt asking themselves where “hope and change” went and hid.
The main cause for this contest’s closeness is arguably Obama — and the ways in which he has disappointed, confused and alienated some of the voters who warmed and even thrilled to him four years ago. During his first term, he at times misjudged and mishandled his Republican opposition. As a communicator, he repeatedly failed to sell his policies clearly and forcefully enough.
His tone is markedly changed from 2008, a tactical decision that may not be the right one. And his moments of genuine oratorical transcendence are interspersed, as they’ve always been, with spells of detachment, defensiveness, disgruntlement. Denver wasn’t the first or only time that he seemed put out by the madness of the political merry-go-round, even though it’s a whirl he himself elected.
I still think he’ll win this thing, and I think he’ll win it because he’s a seriously intelligent, thoughtful leader more in tune and in touch with Americans’ lives than his sheltered opponent is. He still has poetry in him, and he still has fight. But this campaign has illuminated nothing so brightly as the limits of his magic, along with shortcomings that he would carry with him into a second term (should he get one) and would be wise to address.
Poor, poor Mr. Bruni. He didn’t get his unicorn covered in fairy dust…