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Mitt Romney’s Tax Dodge

Romney

Romney (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)

Mitt Romney at one of his presidential campaig...

Mitt Romney at one of his presidential campaign rallies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Romney Signs Wind Turbine In Iowa

Romney Signs Wind Turbine In Iowa (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)

Mitt-Romney

Mitt-Romney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How does a private-equity kingpin worth at least $250 million pay a lower tax rate – just 14 percent – than many teachers and firemen? By exploiting tax loopholes that favor the rich and hiding his money in the world’s most notorious havens for tax cheats. That’s what Mitt Romney has done, according to his 2010 and 2011 tax returns, a trove of secret Bain Capital documents unearthed by Gawker, and exposés by Bloomberg and Vanity Fair. “The bottom line,” says Rebecca Wilkins, senior counsel at Citizens for Tax Justice, “is that these are ways to reduce your taxes that are only available to rich people.”

Are Romney’s tax dodges legal? It’s impossible to say for sure, given how little he has disclosed. But tax experts note that there are plenty of red flags, including an investigation by New York prosecutors into tax abuses at Bain Capital that began on Romney’s watch. “He aggressively exploits every loophole he can find,” says Victor Fleischer, a professor of tax law at the University of Colorado. “He’s pushing the limits of tax law beyond what many think is reasonable.” Indeed, a look at Romney’s finances reveals just how skilled he is at hiding his wealth – and paying a fraction of his fair share in taxes.

SWISS SECRECY

On his 2010 tax return, Romney disclosed that his wife Ann’s trust held $3 million in a Swiss bank account at UBS, which had just been busted by the IRS for abetting criminal tax evasion by U.S. citizens. As part of a $780 million settlement, UBS was forced to turn over the names of thousands of its long-secret clients, who were then offered a partial amnesty: disclose their hidden assets, pay penalties and avoid prosecution. Romney – who had omitted the Swiss account on previous financial disclosures – suddenly came clean. Did he reveal his secret account to avoid prosecution for tax evasion? “He’s not quite denied that,” says Daniel Shaviro, a professor of tax law at NYU. The record of paying an IRS penalty on the Swiss account could explain why Romney has been so determined to keep his 2009 tax return under wraps.

Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital

BERMUDA SHELL GAME

Romney has buried an unknown, and perhaps significant, chunk of his wealth in what SEC filings describe as “a Bermuda corporation wholly owned by W. Mitt Romney” – driving speculation that the candidate is worth far more than he has disclosed publicly. Wealthy Americans frequently launder investments through such offshore shell companies, passing themselves off as foreign investors – a scam that makes them exempt from paying U.S. taxes, even on profits from American deals. Romney created his shell company, Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors, in 1997 and reportedly involved it in many of Bain’s biggest deals, including the takeover of Domino’s Pizza. Yet he failed to report its existence on any financial disclosures prior to his 2010 tax return, even though it is under his control. “What is this corporation? What does it do? Why was it set up in a tax haven?” asks Wilkins. “There’s a reason why it’s in Bermuda.”

LUXEMBOURG SHELTER

In 2000, when Romney was CEO of Bain, the firm hit the jackpot: A $40 million investment in the Italian yellow pages during the tech boom returned an astonishing $1 billion. Romney himself reportedly ended up with $50 million – a cut larger than Bain’s initial investment. To evade taxes on the gains, Romney steered the profits through Bain subsidiaries in Luxembourg, Europe’s most notorious tax shelter, where the money would be exempt from foreign taxes. In 2009, as a board member for Marriott, Romney also helped the hotel chain use the same tax tricks to shelter more than $200 million in Luxembourg. Marriott wound up paying less than half the corporate tax rate – just 16.9 percent.

Mitt Romney’s Real Agenda

CAYMAN CASH

Romney has nearly $30 million stashed in at least a dozen Bain funds in the Cayman Islands, where, as one filing boasts, investments are free from “income, estate, transfer, sales, or other Cayman Islands taxes.” But because some of those funds are directly invested in U.S. companies, they likely disclose their investors to the IRS, making them unattractive to tax cheats. So Bain also raises capital for its deals by selling shares in “feeder funds” – intermediary entities that invest in Bain’s official funds, but don’t have to make disclosures to the IRS. “If you want to cheat, they’ve rolled out the red carpet for you,” says Wilkins.

Has Romney paid all his taxes on the shady funds? Only he and the IRS know for sure. But even if Romney never cheated personally, the feeder funds he appears to have invested in cater to tax criminals, making it easier for him and his Bain partners to raise capital and rake in big management fees.

Romney is profiting from one form of tax evasion in the Caymans: equity swaps. Under this racket run by top Wall Street banks, American firms pay out their profits – tax-free – to investment funds based in the Caymans. According to a Senate investigation, the purpose of these complex instruments is “to dodge payment of U.S. taxes on U.S. stock dividends.” Romney has more than $1.25 million invested in four funds that profit from equity swaps – including two managed by Goldman Sachs.

RETIREMENT TRICKS

Romney has stockpiled as much as $87 million in his IRA – even though contributions to such retirement accounts are limited to just $30,000 a year. “Congress never intended IRAs to be used to accumulate that kind of wealth,” says Wilkins. To get around the limits, Romney appears to have directed his IRA to invest in a special class of Bain stock. By assigning an artificially low value to the shares, Bain ensured that any returns would be wildly inflated – as much as 30 times the initial investment. By buying rigged stock with his limited IRA dollars, Romney got to reap the bonanza tax-free.

Romney also padded his IRA by investing in “blocker funds” that Bain has set up in the Caymans. Such funds attract tax-exempt investors – like college endowments or Romney’s IRA – that want to avoid paying the Unrelated Business Income Tax, a 35 percent penalty designed to prevent tax-exempt investors from having an unfair advantage over for-profit businesses in private-equity deals. But by buying shares in offshore blocker funds that then invest in Bain and other takeover artists, investors like Romney bilk the Treasury out of $100 million a year. “It’s an absurdly easy escape,” says Shaviro.

Mitt Romney is lying again.

Mitt Romney

Is Lying. Again.

POSTED: AUGUST 30, 4:44 PM ET | By TIM DICKINSON

mitt romney
Mitt Romney
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

 

On the eve of his speech at the Republican convention, Romney and his campaign have launched a new site touting Mitt’s private-sector experience:SterlingBusinessCareer.com.

Under a section called “Fixing Businesses,” the campaign lays out the legend of Romney’s 1990 return to the consulting firm Bain & Company, describing his turnaround effort there as an “incredible success” that returned the firm to profitability “in just a year.”

 

bain 1

 

That is a lie.

Federal records obtained by Rolling Stone through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that Bain & Company lost money in both 1991 and 1992 — with Romney at the helm.

This December 22, 1992 analysis for the FDIC lays out the truth about Bain & Company’s mounting losses (both “operating” and “net”) in a section called “Historical Operating Performance.” (FDIC was owed more than $30 million by Bain & Company after the 1991 failure of the Bank of New England.):

 

bain 2

 

Here’s the hard truth: Romney’s turnaround effort at the consulting firm was a fiasco. In fact, Bain & Company was only rescued from the brink of collapse by the federal government. In 1993, the FDIC agreed to wipe away more than $10 million it was owed by Romney’s firm because it believed that “the company will fail if the debt is not modified.

For more on the true story behind the government bailout that saved Romney’s career, read this piece from the magazine.

View other highlights from the FDIC documents obtained by Rolling Stone here.

“We don’t need someone to think”

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011, after receiving the “Defender of the Constitution Award”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

English: at CPAC in .

English: at CPAC in . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

English: Christopher Hitchens at a party at th...

English: Christopher Hitchens at a party at the house of Grover Norquist following the CPAC convention in January 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

English: Former Congressman Newt Gingrich of G...

English: Former Congressman Newt Gingrich of Georgia speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

English: Official photograph portrait of forme...

English: Official photograph portrait of former U.S. President George W. Bush. Português: Foto oficial de George W. Bush, presidente dos Estados Unidos da América. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 11, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

English: Grover Norquist at a political confer...

English: Grover Norquist at a political conference in Orlando, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Grover Norquist, conservative general, explains it all. (Credit: Jeff Malet)

 

On Friday evening, conservatives and Occupy forces talked trash outside the Conservative Political Action Committeeconference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. To my right stood two Occupy soldiers, Michael and Mo, both African-American, shouting slogans about the 1 percent. To my left, a cluster of jacket-and-tied CPAC men shouted sound bites about freedom  In between them stood a line of grim-looking, blue-suited officers of the Metropolitan Police Department, both white and African-American, quite possibly thinking,These people are nuts.

Both sides came equipped for a war of words. Michael is a young Iraq war vet from Alaska who once admired George W. Bush, and is now an Occupier par excellence. He offered the high-decibel insight that “The system has failed!” Standing next to him, Mo, a big guy and a regular at the now-evicted OccupyDC camp, shouted, “The 1 percent are using you guys.”

“The 1 percent?” a CPAC man volleyed back. “God bless ‘em. What’s wrong with making money?”

Another CPAC-er tossed this verbal firecracker: “Just because you’ve failed, doesn’t mean the system’s failed.”

That was rich, the Occupiers thought. Michael had done a tour of duty in Iraq — probably one more than the CPAC man had done. Mo was personally offended. “I haven’t failed,” he said, his face crinkling up at the insulting assumption. “I havea job.” He shook his head and turned away like: There’s no talking to these people. And the CPAC gang turned away, no doubt thinking: There’s no talking to these people.

The CPAC cluster hungrily took up the chant of “Steak! Steak! Steak!” Occupiers replied with a mocking chant of “White power! White power! White power!” And so the confrontation dissolved.

“Truth on our side” 

But inside the big hotel, there was no such failure of communication. Several thousand energized, if anxious, conservative activists launched themselves into the 2012 presidential campaign with a display of divisions — but also an unmistakable resolve to end the presidency of Barack Obama by any legal means necessary. Their mood was upbeat, and barely shaken by the falling unemployment rate and the president’s recent uptick in the polls.

 

Jefferson Morley

Jefferson Morley is a staff writer for Salon in Washington and author of the forthcoming book,Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Race Riot of 1835 (Nan Talese/Doubleday).

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 12, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

“We don’t need someone to think” – Salon.com

Grover Norquist, conservative general, explains it all. (Credit: Jeff Malet)

On Friday evening, conservatives and Occupy forces talked trash outside the Conservative Political Action Committee conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. To my right stood two Occupy soldiers, Michael and Mo, both African-American, shouting slogans about the 1 percent. To my left, a cluster of jacket-and-tied CPAC men shouted sound bites about freedom  In between them stood a line of grim-looking, blue-suited officers of the Metropolitan Police Department, both white and African-American, quite possibly thinking, These people are nuts.

Both sides came equipped for a war of words. Michael is a young Iraq war vet from Alaska who once admired George W. Bush, and is now an Occupier par excellence. He offered the high-decibel insight that “The system has failed!” Standing next to him, Mo, a big guy and a regular at the now-evicted OccupyDC camp, shouted, “The 1 percent are using you guys.”

“The 1 percent?” a CPAC man volleyed back. “God bless ‘em. What’s wrong with making money?”

Another CPAC-er tossed this verbal firecracker: “Just because you’ve failed, doesn’t mean the system’s failed.”

That was rich, the Occupiers thought. Michael had done a tour of duty in Iraq — probably one more than the CPAC man had done. Mo was personally offended. “I haven’t failed,” he said, his face crinkling up at the insulting assumption. “I have a job.” He shook his head and turned away like: There’s no talking to these people. And the CPAC gang turned away, no doubt thinking: There’s no talking to these people.

The CPAC cluster hungrily took up the chant of “Steak! Steak! Steak!” Occupiers replied with a mocking chant of “White power! White power! White power!” And so the confrontation dissolved.

“Truth on our side”

via “We don’t need someone to think” – Salon.com.

“We don’t need someone to think” – Salon.com

Grover Norquist, conservative general, explains it all. (Credit: Jeff Malet)

On Friday evening, conservatives and Occupy forces talked trash outside the Conservative Political Action Committee conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. To my right stood two Occupy soldiers, Michael and Mo, both African-American, shouting slogans about the 1 percent. To my left, a cluster of jacket-and-tied CPAC men shouted sound bites about freedom  In between them stood a line of grim-looking, blue-suited officers of the Metropolitan Police Department, both white and African-American, quite possibly thinking, These people are nuts.

Both sides came equipped for a war of words. Michael is a young Iraq war vet from Alaska who once admired George W. Bush, and is now an Occupier par excellence. He offered the high-decibel insight that “The system has failed!” Standing next to him, Mo, a big guy and a regular at the now-evicted OccupyDC camp, shouted, “The 1 percent are using you guys.”

“The 1 percent?” a CPAC man volleyed back. “God bless ‘em. What’s wrong with making money?”

Another CPAC-er tossed this verbal firecracker: “Just because you’ve failed, doesn’t mean the system’s failed.”

That was rich, the Occupiers thought. Michael had done a tour of duty in Iraq — probably one more than the CPAC man had done. Mo was personally offended. “I haven’t failed,” he said, his face crinkling up at the insulting assumption. “I have a job.” He shook his head and turned away like: There’s no talking to these people. And the CPAC gang turned away, no doubt thinking: There’s no talking to these people.

The CPAC cluster hungrily took up the chant of “Steak! Steak! Steak!” Occupiers replied with a mocking chant of “White power! White power! White power!” And so the confrontation dissolved.

“Truth on our side”

via “We don’t need someone to think” – Salon.com.

Douglas Gross Iowa chairman, Romney 2008…Take me to that meeting. Tell me where it was and what you were there to do.

English: Presidential candidate Mitt Romney ta...

English: Presidential candidate Mitt Romney talks with patrons at the Senate Coney Island Restaurant, 34359 Plymouth Road, Livonia, Michigan, June 9, 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Steve Forbes

Steve Forbes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Mitt-Romney

 

  1. And he believes that this country is the only hope for freedom in this world.

    … What does that mean?

    Because there are other countries that have freedom, but without the strongest country in the world supporting freedom, other philosophies could take over. The philosophy of Russia trying to use its natural resources to become a superpower again, they don’t have freedom. China trying to use some of our free-enterprise system, but they don’t have freedom. You don’t have freedom of education, freedom of where you’re going to live, what job you’re going to have, or let alone religion.

    And then you have the radical Islamists that want to destroy everything in the West at every opportunity in democracy, at any event. And Western Europe and other places that have some freedom, they don’t have the ability to sustain it on their own anymore. They could be subsumed by the other philosophies in this world.

    The United States is the place that has the opportunity to defend freedom around the world and to give people great opportunity. This country has lifted more people out of poverty than any country in the history of mankind, and Mitt believes we can do a better job at it.

    A friend of mine, Rich Schwarm and I — Rich is a former political Republican party chair in Iowa — we flew out and met with [senior Romney adviser] Beth Myers and a number of the key people and discussed the campaign.

    I remember the initial discussion of the campaign, the strategy of the campaign. They were very interested in what the caucuses were about. They really couldn’t quite figure them out, and they also wanted to know how he should be positioned if he wanted to have a chance of winning the caucuses.

    I remember that I had read some material on him previously, particularly something I think Mike Murphy had written, talking about how he adopted a position on abortion, one when he became governor, and then two now that he was running for president. And I was concerned about that.

    They had received advice that he needed to dive right if he wanted to have a chance in Iowa, particularly on social issues. And I remember at the first meeting, I indicated to him that I thought that was a mistake, that he had to be whoever he was. If you’re trying to dive one way or another, you’re going to lose your authenticity and not be successful. …

     

     

  2. Douglas Gross   Iowa chairman, Romney 2008

    Read the full interview »

    After that discussion, then we went to dinner with both the governor and his wife, Ann, at the top of the Ritz-Carlton, overlooking the Boston Common. I suspect they thought that this country boy from Iowa would have stars in his eyes associated with that kind of a setting.

    I’ve dealt with people who have been running for president. That’s one of the opportunities you have in Iowa is you have an opportunity to deal with people who would like to be president, and you don’t have stars in your eyes. You see the world very clearly. And you feel that one of our jobs as Iowans is sort of do the job interview and see what these folks are made of, and if they have the capabilities to be a successful president.

    What I had read about him, and the information I had learned about him, I was impressed with him from the standpoint that I thought he understood big issues. I thought the country was facing big problems, and this is a guy who could tackle those. He had both the intellectual capacity, the organizational capacity to do that.

    But there were some things that still bothered me, and I wanted to talk to him about those things that might bother me. They were the three M’s. …

 

“Good Newt, Bad Newt”

 

by Peter J. Boyer
Vanity Fair July 1989

In a corner office in the U.S. Capitol, a short stroll down the marble corridor from the room where Speaker of the House Jim Wright is writhing in a stew of ethics charges, the man who’s put Wright in that fix seems quite out of sorts himself. “I’m a controversial guy,” Newt Gingrich says, with the air of a man who has discovered something surprising about himself. He isn’t sure he should make himself available for a magazine story, explaining, “I’m not up to speed on the national press.”

It is an amazing assertion, coming from the congressman who once declared he was “reshaping the entire nation through the news media,” who just a week earlier had been quoted in Newsweek as saying, “If you’re not in The Washington Post every day, you might as well not exist.” Gingrich, Congress’s own automated-teller machine of quotes, is not up to dealing with the press? Something is definitely wrong.

In fact, it has been a terrible week for the chunky, forty-five-year-old Republican congressman from Georgia, and this is only Thursday afternoon. On Tuesday, The New York Times gave prominent display on its op-ed page to an article written by one of Gingrich’s most bitter Democratic foes, Representative Bill Alexander of Arkansas, who branded Gingrich a neo-McCarthyite and urged his colleagues to take up the fight against him. Then Gingrich and his wife, Marianne, met with reporters to answer charges (filed by Alexander) of possible improprieties in an unusual book-promotion deal –improprieties loosely similar to those with which Gingrich has charged Speaker Wright. It was a difficult, testy news conference; the press couldn’t resist probing the obvious parallels, and after just a few moments Marianne Gingrich stalked out of the press gallery, sobbing. The event landed Newt and Marianne Gingrich on the front page of Wednesday’sWashington Post .

Thursday is going downhill fast. It began with a morning meeting with House Republican officials in the office of Bob Michel, the minority leader. Gingrich discovered that four Democratic congressmen were asking the House ethics committee to appoint an outside counsel to investigate the charges against him. The next item on his schedule was a National Press Club luncheon, at which he was to be the featured guest. Marianne Gingrich was supposed to attend as well, but she had been so upset that she refused to accompany her husband. Now, when he returns to his office following the lunch, she is on the phone, in tears; a friend from Ohio has called, asking about an account of the press conference in the Cleveland Plain Dealer .

“He is a little testy today,” says Sheila Ward, Gingrich’s faithful young press aide, who has just earned a wicked blast of Gingrich ire for turning up the sound on an office television (tuned, appropriately enough, to C-SPAN, the public-service cable network that covers government).

It was probably inevitable that Gingrich, himself an accomplished slinger would get splattered in Washington’s current mud bath. Not only is he the man who put Jim Wright, the top Democrat in the country, on the spit, but his decade-long career in the House of Representatives has been one sustained assault on the opposition party –known in the Gingrich lexicon as “the corrupt left-wing machine” that exists to perpetuate “the corrupt liberal welfare state.” Almost from the moment he arrived in town, Gingrich, who looks like Pete Rose (and, for that matter, plays Congress in the headfirst style in which Rose played baseball), has been practicing what he calls “confrontational activism,” a standard theme of which is the defeatist psychology of the Soviet-appeasing Chamberlains on the other side of the aisle.

But even this is not why Newt Gingrich stands at center stage in the political theater just now. To many in Washington, both those who admire and those who loathe the Georgia representative, Newt Gingrich is the future of American politics, arrived; a hope, or a nightmare, come true.

 

This spring, in an extraordinary jolt to the usually somnolent politics of House Republicans, Gingrich leapt from his niche as a back-bench bomb thrower to the post of minority whip, a key position in a party leadership. His ascension changes the chemistry of politics on Capitol Hill and signals a dramatic new Republican strategy. After thirty-four years as the minority party in Congress, years of deep frustration, the Republicans seem ready to launch an all-out war on Democratic dominance, attacking the Democratic Party as a whole with the same spectacularly successful (if ungentle) tactics that George Bush’s campaign managers used against Michael Dukakis in 1988.

The Bush campaign sank Dukakis by playing to the national gut –driving the public perception of the Democratic candidate to the far left with such devices as the Willie Horton ads, which portrayed Dukakis as being soft on crime by focusing on Massachusetts’s prison-furlough program. (Horton, a scary-looking black man, raped a white woman while on a weekend leave from a Massachusetts prison.) The architect of that campaign, political consultant Lee Atwater, is now chairman of the Republican National Committee, and his former boss, political consultant Ed Rollins, is head of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Atwater was among the first to applaud Newt Gingrich’s selection as whip: “He talks the kinda talk I like.” It is clear that the Atwater-Rollins wing of the party, at least, intends Gingrich to be the Republicans’ front man in the drive to do for all of the G.O.P. what Atwater did for George Bush–to “Willie Horton” the Democratic House of Representatives by hammering away at the theme of “institutional corruption.”

“I think Newt Gingrich has an opportunity to have a somewhat unprecedented role for a Republican House member,” Atwater says. “He can truly be a national political guru for our party. He can be a spokesman, he can be a philosopher, and he can be a strategist for our party. As Teddy Roosevelt once said about the bully pulpit, Newt Gingrich has an opportunity to be as big a man as he can be.”

Gingrich is eager for the role. By Saturday he has shaken off the setbacks of the news conference and the Democrats’ attacks–“a smear campaign by Jim Wright’s cronies”–and is pounding away once more at the “corrupt left-wing machine.” He spends most of the day at Atwater’s home, plotting strategy. His goal: a Republican majority by 1992. (“And the great thing about Gingrich,” says Atwater, “is that he really believes it.”) That evening, after attending the White House correspondents dinner, Gingrich makes an appearance on a public-television talk show, where he says that God has given him a mission: “To find honest self-government and to survive as a free people.”

It will be hard for the Democrats to campaign against that.

Not surprisingly, Gingrich has often been diminished by his colleagues in the House as a fast-talking demagogue, or worse. Beryl Anthony Jr. of Arkansas,the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says simply, “He’s crazy.” In 1985, The Washington Postwrote that “Newt Gingrich may be just about the most disliked member of Congress.”

 

Why, then, would Republicans choose him as a leader? Because he is a rare and compelling politician.

In public meetings and speeches, Gingrich is an extremely engaging fellow. His defense of his book deal before the National Press Club (no pit bulls, but not exactly the Young Republicans, either) prompted thunderous applause. He takes complete possession of the room, even when he’s speaking what one critic calls “GobbledyNewt”–his philosophical mix of futurism, high technology, free enterprise, and space. A former college professor, he has the instructor’s command, rather than the lawyer’s equivocation, a compelling directness in a world of frayed smiles and glazed expressions. But most of all Gingrich has something that is of great practical value to the Republican just now –the zealot’s single-minded drive.

It is grounded in a childhood that was divided and rootless. He was born Newton Leroy McPherson near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1943, his parents’ only child. His father was in the navy, but his parents broke up after the war, and his mother married a career army officer, who adopted Newt when the youngster was five. Both of Gingrich’s parents had children in their second marriages, and although Newt was an army brat, following his mother and stepfather from base to base, he stayed in touch with his natural father.

Then, as a fifteen-year-old high school student in France, where his stepfather was stationed, Gingrich was “called” to politics.

“I got active in this business of politics and self-government in 1958, when my father, who was serving in the U.S. Army, took us to the battlefield of Verdun.” The boy stared at the bone pile left by the great battle, and “over the course of the weekend, it convinced me that civilizations live and die by, and that the ultimate margin in a free society of our fate is provided more by, elected political leadership than by any other group. That in the end it’s the elected politicians that decide where we fight and when we fight and what the terms of engagement are, and what weapons systems are available.” That awakening, he says, led to a 180-page term paper on the balance of world power. When he turned in the paper, he informed his teacher that his family was being transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he would become a Republican congressman.

It is a story that Gingrich tells at least three or four times a week. It is his self-explanation, his Genesis. It is possibly even true. Who would make up a story like that?

In any case, Newt Gingrich was a driven lad by the time he arrived at Baxter High School, and politics was his passion –as a junior, he passed out campaign literature for Nixon’s 1960 campaign. His singular determination was perhaps best seen in his first successful romance, a schoolboy crush he developed on his high-school math teacher. Lots of boys get romantic notions about pretty young teachers, but Newt Gingrich didn’t let go of his. After graduation, when she moved to Atlanta, he went to Atlanta too, enrolling at Emory University. Gingrich pursued his former math teacher, seven years his senior, until Jackie agreed to become his wife. They were married at the end of his freshman year, and soon they had their first child, Kathy. Gingrich then entered that hazy passage through ambiguity experienced by the majority of young American men during the 1960s. Like most of his generation, Gingrich was moderately anti-Establishment (he tried pot, and participated in a campus protest at Tulane University) and chose not to go to Vietnam, opting for deferments available to him as a father and a student. But unlike most young men his age, Gingrich would be haunted by his decision. Later, when, as a hawkish congressman, he would lash out against the “weak-on-defense left” and espouse universal military training, his opponents would investigate Gingrich’s own military background.

Sure enough, he found himself listed among a sizable group of noted conservative hawks (including George Will and Richard Perle) who had managed to avoid the war-the “war wimps,” as they came to be called. In 1985, he told Jane Mayer of The Wall Street Journal that he still believed that “Vietnam was the right battlefield at the right time.” Why didn’t he go? “Given everything I believe in, a large part of me thinks I should have gone over,” he allowed. But, recovering, he added, “Part of the question I had to ask myself was what difference I would have made.”

After graduating from Emory, he and Jackie and Kathy moved to New Orleans, where the Gingriches had a second daughter, and Newt worked on his graduate degrees in history. He ultimately earned his Ph.D. from Tulane, but maintained his vivid interest in politics throughout. He took a year off in 1964 to manage a congressional campaign in Georgia and worked on Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential quest in 1968. In 1970, Gingrich moved his family to Carrollton, a quiet town south of Atlanta, where he took a job teaching environmental studies.

One of the things Gingrich liked about the job was its location-in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, which Gingrich soon identified as the seat of his boyhood visions. The seat, which had been solidly Democratic since Reconstruction, was held by a longtime incumbent, Jack Flynt. Gingrich’s first two campaigns, both against Flynt, were unsuccessful, but it was a measure of his political acumen that the races were even close. In 1974 he was hurt by Watergate and Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon-a political act that he later termed “just unbelievably dumb. Gerald Ford personally cost me a Congressional seat…Just utterly stupid.” And in 1976 he was hurt by the presence at the top of the Democratic ticket of a native Georgian, Jimmy Carter.

But Jack Flynt retired after his 1976 term, and 1978 was Gingrich’s year. His Democratic opponent was Virginia Shapard, a state senator. The campaign was so rough that Shapard is still more than a little bitter about it. “It was, early on, that same sort of technique that you saw in this last campaign at the presidential level,” she says, “the Willie Horton type of thing.” Gingrich, seeking to drive Shapard to the left and carve out the middle and right for himself, campaigned as a hard, no-tax, anti-welfare conservative. One Gingrich ad, which Shapard says was particularly effective, showed hands reaching out and grabbing at a pile of dollar bills-taxpayer dollars-“and this voice-over said, ‘Virginia Shapard says she’s against welfare fraud, but she voted against…’ and then they cited the bill number, and it was absolutely devastating.”

Another Gingrich theme in that campaign was moral leadership and family values. He drove the point home with an ad claiming that if Shapard were elected to Congress she would leave her husband, a local businessman, behind, while Gingrich would keep his family together. This issue was a subject of particular irony among the Shapard campaign staffers, where gossip about Gingrich’s roving eye was widely believed and it was assumed that the Gingrich marriage was on the verge of breaking up. “As the days dwindled down in the end of the campaign,” Shapard says, “the campaign workers had an unofficial pool going on to see how long it would take him when he got to Washington to dump [Jackie.]”

 

Not long, as it turned out. Jackie Gingrich went to Washington with her newly elected husband, but she did not return for his second term. She says that Gingrich walked out on her in the spring of 1980. That fall, while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery for uterine cancer, he appeared at her bedside with a yellow legal pad outlining the details for their divorce. The next year, he married his current wife, Marianne Ginther, a small-town Ohio woman fifteen years younger than Jackie, who was then a personnel clerk with the Secret Service.

“I was very fond of Jackie, and I felt sorry for the whole way that it turned out for her,” Shapard says. “But…you could have written that down before it happened, and many people did.”

It’s hard now for Jackie Gingrich to talk about her life with Newt. Her daughters are grown, and though she talks with them regularly by phone, Jackie lives alone in Carrollton, still teaching, and tutoring at night. She no longer has any contact with Gingrich whom she refers to as “the congressman.” “I do not talk to him, he does not talk to me, and I do not even get junk mail from the office.”

In Washington, the second Mrs. Gingrich bristles at the suggestion that she was just the new model that Gingrich traded in for when it became convenient . “He’s a public figure and people will attack him,” Marianne says. “He’s just got to take it and keep moving.”

In fact, she adds, she and Gingrich spent long hours discussing his troubled previous marriage, which was years in the undoing. “I’ve seen bills where they both went to marriage counseling before they split up, before she got ill. The documentation is there.”

“When you’re the second wife and you’re trying to uphold what you did or who you are, you’ll say those things” is Jackie’s only comment.

Asked about his divorce by The Atlanta Constitution , Newt Gingrich said, “Even if I had been sensitive, it would’ve been a mess.”

It is not easy to become the most disliked man in Congress in the space of three terms, but Newt Gingrich was no ordinary congressman. Even before he got to Capitol Hill, when he was making his first run in 1974, he said, “I intend to go up there and kick the system over, not try to change it.” It was not your usual sort of campaign promise, but then, Gingrich did not keep his word on it. When he arrived in Washington, he ignored the traditional course for freshmen congressmen of quietly taking backseat and doing party and committee grunt work while learning the ropes. Instead, he openly cultivated the press and, of course, he developed his romance with C-SPAN.

Nothing was so sweet a piece of happenstance as the arrival of Gingrich and C-SPAN in the House of Representatives at the same moment. They were made for each other. A Washington newsman, Brian Lamb, had had the idea of bringing the proceedings of both houses of Congress to American television viewers as a nonprofit public service. Congressional leaders, accustomed to the clubby seclusion of Congress and frankly skeptical about the television appeal of their work, were doubtful –particularly since Lamb wanted gavel-to-gavel coverage –but House Speaker Tip O’Neill eventually gave the go-ahead.

Gingrich, the new face, quickly recognized an opportunity. The House, which limits the length of debate over legislation, has a rule allowing so-called special orders –permission to give lengthy speeches at the end of each legislative day. These have long been a means by which congressman could read into the Congressional Record various matters of importance to their constituents, usually matters of trivia. But Gingrich, concerned less with the Record than with the potential television audience, began to use special orders regularly as his platform for advancing ideas and, especially, for attacking the Democratic majority.

At first, his approach gave the impression that he was a brave young crusader, taking on the opposition in heated floor encounters, but, in truth, most of his diatribes were delivered before a virtually empty House. When, in 1984, he escalated his attack on Democrats to the point of questioning their patriotism– accusing them of being “blind to Communism” –Speaker O’Neill lost his cool. In a legendary head-to-head encounter on the floor of the House, the Speaker blasted Gingrich : “You deliberately stood in that well before an empty House, and challenged these people, and challenged their patriotism, and it is the lowest thing that I’ve ever seen in my thirty-two years in Congress.”

The end of the story, however, was a Gingrich coup: Trent Lott, who was then minority whip, protested O’Neill’s attack on Gingrich as being out of order, and O’Neill’s remarks were stricken from the record. It was the first such rebuke of a Speaker of the House since 1798. Gingrich was famous.

Gingrich gradually developed a political manifesto, a sort of New Age Reaganism, and called his blueprint for a new America the “Conservative Opportunity Society” (as opposed, of course, to the Liberal Welfare State.) By 19(86?), although he held no committee chair or leadership position, Newt Gingrich was named by The Almanac of American Politics as one of the twenty-six most influential members of the House.

His recognition and his gathering power were not the result of the legislation he drafted or helped to pass, which, in fact, was negligible. And he was scorned by detractors for some of his wackier notions –which ranged from the off-the-wall (plans for statehood in outer space) to potential political dynamite (he once proposed abolishing Social Security and replacing it with mandatory I.R.A.’s).

Still, Gingrich’s accessibility, and his willingness (and ability) to glibly hold forth on his various notions at a moment’s notice, gave him a reputation as a brainiac, a kind of walking lecture, and won him some fans within the more activist branch of the Republican Party. Guy Vander Jagt of Michigan, for one, is as impressed with Gingrich as ever. “In terms of the sweep of intellect and the energy to drive those intellectual conceptualizations, he has no equal.”

For Gingrich, politics is his profession, his sport, and his hobby, and his private life is pretty dull. He and Marianne have never been regulars on the party circuit, they have no children, and they have no pets –because Newt is partial to reptiles. (They bought a boa constrictor at one point, which Newt then donated to the zoo; he wanted to keep it, but Marianne knew they wouldn’t be able to find neighbors willing to boa-sit when the Gingriches were out of town.) Marianne says she has only one friend in Washington, and much prefers her life back in Georgia: “I find Washington an extremely cynical, transitional, unstable place –it’s not an easy place.”

But Newt thrived in the bright light of the recognition he was receiving, to the point, some would suggest, where his ego became a trifle overfed. Even for a town not populated by self-effacing people, Gingrich has said some pretty memorable things, such as his observation to The Atlantic that his attendance at a National Press Club dinner “made no sense except that the news media could see me walking through the crowds.” Still high from his success at the ’84 convention, when he managed to persuade Reagan’s speech writers to include the term “opportunity society” in the president’s address, he told The Washington Post , “I have an enormous personal ambition. I want to shift the entire planet. And I’m doing it. Ronald Reagan just used the term “opportunity society” and that didn’t exist four years ago. I just had breakfast with Darman and Stockman because I’m unavoidable. I represent real power.”

He was already a favorite target of the Democrats, and such pronouncements made him even easier prey. “Newt Gingrich can unify the Democratic Party better than anyone in America,” says Democratic whip Tony Coelho of his longtime opponent. In 1985, some Democratic staff members assembled a collection of Gingrich’s quota, and distributed it under the title Talking Heads-A Newt Gingrich Chrestomathy . In May, a sequel (Son of Talking Heads) was produced, and included this Gingrich gem: “Vision must lead to words. Our vision cannot exist if we cannot say it. Strategy must lead to policies, to strategies, and they must lead to structures for implementation. Operations must be definable tasks for which we can hold people accountable. The tactics on a daily basis must be a doctrine that fits our vision of strategy.”

The passage was headlined: “Newt Sun T’Zu.”

Gingrich had taken on Democrats almost from the moment he hit town, but in May 1988 he went after the big fish: the Speaker of the House. After spending months preparing his case against Wright, he filed charges of ethics violations with the House Committee on Standards of Official conduct.

It was a lonely course; while some Republicans privately cheered Gingrich’s move, none would join him in those first months as he fought to bring his complaint. The Speaker of the House –any Speaker– is a force not to be trifled with, and Wright was held to be particularly vindictive. Also, many Republicans were (and are) unsure about the propriety of making ethics a partisan issue; beyond that, there is the “glass house” syndrome in Congress, a work unto itself where ethically questionable behavior is sometimes explicitly within the rules. But Gingrich was determined. It was, politically, the perfect moment to attack Wright; the protracted Ed Meese scandal promised to give Democrats the sleaze issue for their convention, and Gingrich’s assault blunted that.

 

So he whaled away at Wright, calling him “the most corrupt Speaker of the twentieth century,” and was vindicated, to a degree, when the committee issued its report this April. Essentially, it charged Wright with sixty-nine potential violations. The Speaker, asked at the time about his feelings for Gingrich, said they were like those “of a fire hydrant for a dog.”

The Wright triumph proved to be a clear asset to Gingrich in his campaign for party whip, but, ironically, the position had become vacant only because of a Republican ethics mess –the John Tower affair. When Tower was rejected by the Senate in March, President Bush nominated Dick Cheney of Wyoming, who had just been elected minority whip, for secretary of defense. Gingrich was in his field office in Griffin, Georgia, when he heard the news about Cheney’s nomination from a USA Today reporter. He made up his mind instantly.

“It was 3:45 in the afternoon,” he says. “I decided by the time I hung up. It was so obvious that, having lost Lott [Trent Lott of Mississippi, who’d been elected to the Senate] and Kemp [who’d moved into Bush’s Cabinet] and Cheney, we needed somebody with a good deal of drive and energy to fill the vacuum that those three guys left behind them. And so I decided to try it.”

It may have seemed obvious to Gingrich, but not to others. The whip’s job (the title does in fact derive from a literal use of the word: the “whipper-in” at a fox hunt is a man who keeps the hounds together in a pack) is the ultimate inside party position, involving the counting of noses, the corralling and delivering of votes, the building of coalitions. Gingrich was the quintessential party outsider, a freelancer with no known expertise in vote gathering, several well-known antagonisms within his own party and, of course, with Democrats, and he was no ally of minority leader Bob Michel’s. Michel, in fact, was supporting his fellow Illinoisan Edward R. Madigan, who had the traditional qualifications for the role to a T. But Gingrich once again was prepared to seize his moment.

He had heard about the Cheney appointment on a Saturday, and immediately got on the telephone, rounding up support for his candidacy. He called Marianne into his office to get food and run errands, while he and his allies worked the phones late into the night. By Monday, he’d built a sizable base of support. Madigan didn’t get around to announcing until Monday. Gingrich won the election by two votes, 87 to 85, put over top by some of his longtime moderate adversaries in the party. After Gingrich’s victory, Wright sent him a copy of his bookReflections of a Public Man , with the inscription, “For Newt –who likes books, too…To be chosen by your peers is a great honor.” Gingrich called the Speaker and thanked him –but had second thoughts when it occurred to him that Wright’s gesture “was meant as a publicity stunt.”

The vote made clear, Michel said, that the G.O.P. members wanted a more activist leadership. As Gingrich sees it, “The party went through a twelve-day introspection trying to decide which was the greater risk, and decided on balance it was less risky to have more risks.”

Some, including Gingrich himself, believe that his new party “insider” status will moderate the former bomb thrower, “I have to be more cautious now,” he says, “because I no longer just speak for myself.” Coelho says that in the early going he has been cooperative, helping to pass the budget through the House without obstruction.

But there are also those in the G.O.P. who say that Gingrich is biding his time, that it is one thing to be conciliatory on the budget, and that when it comes to real “wedge” issues, those gut issues that can be used against Democrats committed to policies outside the moderate-conservative spectrum, the Gingrich strategy will be to raise hell and publicize the divisions.

“You’ll see them more energized, more involved in drawing the line to show the difference between Republican and Democratic behavior,” Vander Jagt says, “and therefore you’ll see more sharply defined confrontational votes that we can play to. One of my frustrations has been you do not change public perception by issuing press releases from the Republican National Committee. You change it by headlines that result from action under that Capitol dome and votes that are taken there.”

But far more important than Gingrich’s congressional role is his place in the wider campaign to win the House for the Republican Party. There is in this Republican quest a weird factor at play. Polls cited by both parties show that about half of all Americans don’t perceive the House as an institution run by Democrats. When Reagan was in the White House, in fact, more people thought that it was a Republican body. Republican strategists believe, perhaps inevitably, that if voters saw the House as a Democratic monolith, they’d make the same values connection they make in presidential races and take it out on their local Democrats. That’s what G.O.P. strategists believe occurred in 1980, when, with Jimmy Carter in the White House, people took for granted that the House was democratic and proceeded to go out and vote for Republican congressional candidates.

So Gingrich’s role is to drive home the message that the House is a Democratically controlled institution. Or, rather, that it is a “corrupt, left-wing, Democratically controlled institution.”

“Exactly,” Vander Jagt says, “exactly. We don’t have Jimmy Carter to help us anymore. Now we’ve got Newt Gingrich.”

Democrats, naturally, consider that underlying premise –that Americans will vote Republican if they realize the House is Democratic-to be, in the words of Representative Anthony, “poppycock.” Still, they do worry about losing seats when congressional districts are reapportioned before the 1992 election. (As many as twenty seats will shift to the West and South, growing Republican strongholds.) And a Gingrich-led campaign to Willie Horton the Democratic Party figures to hurt individual candidates in the South, where many Democratic congressmen already have to out-conservative the Republicans to win elections.

All of this, of course, makes Newt Gingrich a more tempting target for Democrats than ever before, which is why Alexander’s ethics complaint against the Georgian should have surprised no one.

Democrats considered it the height of hypocrisy for Gingrich to go after Wright for his peculiar book deal when Gingrich himself had made not one but two unusual book arrangements. The first was in 1977, before he actually won his seat, when he accepted $13,000 from his supporters to write a book that he never completed. The second case, involving Gingrich’s 1984 manifesto for the Conservative Opportunity Society, concerned a unique arrangement by which twenty-one “investors” paid $5,000 each to a limited partnership, run by Mrs. Gingrich, to raise money to promote the book.

Gingrich stoutly maintains that his deal is “fundamentally different” from Wright’s because the money given for his book by each partner was “an investment, not a gift” –so defined by Gingrich because each partner had a chance to reap a profit if the book became a best-seller. (It didn’t.) However, Gingrich’s wife didn’t recruit just businessmen in forming the partnership, she recruited supporters of Gingrich’s, many of them constituents, and at least fifteen of the people who have contributed to his political campaigns. Some of them have said that they had no intention of making money, they just wanted to do something for Gingrich.

Gingrich has taken the assault hard, and was reportedly shaken to the point of tears when he heard that four Democratic colleagues were asking that a special outside counsel pursue the charges. He says he was “surprised and hurt,” and spent long, anguished hours wondering if he had in fact done something worthy of investigation.

But Newt Gingrich didn’t get this far by indulging in self-doubt. The next day the bomb thrower was back on the attack, accusing the Democrats of “an amateur smear,” and bullying the press for refusing to blithely accept his definition of an “investment” (House rules prohibit gifts from individuals in excess of $1,000). He played the annoyed college instructor, hectoring and ridiculing reporters. When he told Andrea Mitchell of NBC News that she was “overreaching” with a question, she expressed the sentiment of many in the room by snapping back, “It’s an environment you helped to create.”

It’s an environment that figures to get muddier. Newt Gingrich has touched off a scandal of truly historic proportion. The various investigations of Wright’s personal and business conduct range far beyond Gingrich’s original charges, and the ethics committee is now probing allegations of wrongdoing related to Wright’s unusual good fortune in an oil well deal (his blind trust turned a nifty $292,000 profit in a month). As the revelations continue, congressional and media scrutiny of the Speaker has intensified.

The Washington Post published a devastating retelling of a brutal stabbing by the man who was Wright’s top aide on Capitol Hill. Though the story had been common knowledge in congressional circles, the article was the talk of Washington for several days and resulted in the aide’s resignation. It gave vivid, spine-chilling details of John Paul Mack’s 1973 assault on a twenty-year old customer of the Virginia store in which he was then working as a clerk. He went berserk, slashing the woman and crushing her skull with a hammer, then left her for dead. After two years in jail, Mack was released on a work program; he had been promised a job in the office of Congressman Jim Wright –whose daughter was then married to Mack’s brother.

The sordid allegations and news stories multiply, and it has become clear to members on both sides of the aisle that Wright is unlikely to survive as Speaker of the House. At best, he’ll be allowed to resign his post and retain some shred of dignity. Furthermore, one of the likely choices to succeed him, Tony Coelho, may himself be facing an ethics-committee inquiry for failing to make required disclosures about his highly profitable purchase of a Drexel junk bond.

The bottom line is that Gingrich has delivered a crushing blow to the Democratic Party, and he’s prepared to escalate the battle if necessary. “There are at least nine cases of documented Democratic scandals that by their standard would require independent counsel,” he notes, then goes on to make what sounds very much like a threat. For the Democrats to press the case against him, Newt Gingrich warns, would be “an act of self-immolation that is irrational.”

Both Republicans and Democrats agree that this highly partisan ethics war has already inflicted heavy damage. But in the brave new political world personified by Newt Gingrich, a world in which confrontation is an end as well as a means, the bloodletting almost certainly won’t stop here.

Karl Rove Promotes “New World Order” Conspiracy Theory | National Confidential

Karl Rove Promotes “New World Order” Conspiracy Theory | National Confidential.

@owillis He is also the Largest salesman ( FEAR-FEAR-ANGER-LIES-SEDITION IN ANY OTHER COUNTRY) FOR GOLD CHECK OUT THE PRICE OF GOLD WHEN OUR PRESIDENT WAS ELECTED AND WHAT IS IT NOW??? THANKS TO FOX NEWS PROPAGANDA MACHINE…

Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem. – Politics and Public Opinion – AEI

Let's just say it: The Republicans are the problem. – Politics and Public Opinion – AEI.

Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, was recently captured on video asserting that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party. Of course, it’s not unusual for some renegade lawmaker from either side of the aisle to say something outrageous. What made West’s comment — right out of the McCarthyite playbook of the 1950s — so striking was the almost complete lack of condemnation from Republican congressional leaders or other major party figures, including the remaining presidential candidates.
It’s not that the GOP leadership agrees with West; it is that such extreme remarks and views are now taken for granted.
We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Redistricting in today’s shifting racial landscape – Society and Culture – AEI

Redistricting in today's shifting racial landscape – Society and Culture – AEI.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
In “A Nation of Takers,” author Nicholas Eberstadt draws on an impressive array of data to detail the exponential growth in entitlement spending over the past fifty years. As he notes, in 1960, entitlement payments accounted for well under a third of the federal government’s total outlays. Today, entitlement spending — everything from Medicare to disability payments — accounts for a full two-thirds of the federal budget. While these economic developments are indeed astonishing, the cultural costs of this epidemic are equally troubling, and Eberstadt shows in unflinching detail how this run-away spending is making a very real, long-lasting, negative impact on the character of our citizens.

Also included in the book are responses to Eberstadt’s argument from other leading political theorists, William Galston, who questions Eberstadt’s causal links between government programs and dependence, and Yuval Levin, who suggests that the problems posed by dependence may, in fact, run even deeper than Eberstadt suggests. A final response from Eberstadt puts everything in perspective and invites the rest of us to lend our voices to the conversation.

Redistricting in today’s shifting racial landscape – Society and Culture – AEI

Redistricting in today's shifting racial landscape – Society and Culture – AEI.

ABOUT THE BOOK:
In “A Nation of Takers,” author Nicholas Eberstadt draws on an impressive array of data to detail the exponential growth in entitlement spending over the past fifty years. As he notes, in 1960, entitlement payments accounted for well under a third of the federal government’s total outlays. Today, entitlement spending — everything from Medicare to disability payments — accounts for a full two-thirds of the federal budget. While these economic developments are indeed astonishing, the cultural costs of this epidemic are equally troubling, and Eberstadt shows in unflinching detail how this run-away spending is making a very real, long-lasting, negative impact on the character of our citizens.

Also included in the book are responses to Eberstadt’s argument from other leading political theorists, William Galston, who questions Eberstadt’s causal links between government programs and dependence, and Yuval Levin, who suggests that the problems posed by dependence may, in fact, run even deeper than Eberstadt suggests. A final response from Eberstadt puts everything in perspective and invites the rest of us to lend our voices to the conversation.

Barack X: Race and the Obama Presidency : The New Yorker

Barack X: Race and the Obama Presidency : The New Yorker.

Nothing better defined the precise nature of his circumstances than that triumphal moment of birtherism, in which a sitting President was forced to prove his own citizenship. Viewed through the lens of black history, that moment appeared as Dred Scott remixed, the means by which a President is racially profiled. That humiliation resounded with every black person who’s ever felt that their qualifications were questioned despite years of education, hard work, and sacrifice. It made perfect sense that Donald Trump would follow up the question of Obama’s citizenship with one casting doubts on his academic performance at Columbia. He was trafficking in the greatest hits of white entitlement. For black people, the implications of this were clear: if the most powerful man in the world could be played like that because he’s black, what hope was there for the rest of us?

Cornel West himself unintentionally made the most cogent defense of Obama when he criticized the 2008 race speech. After rightfully citing it for the false evenhandedness with which it treated racial conflict, West offered that it was the best speech that could be given “in a racially immature society.” There is a thematic bond that connects a broad swath of our contemporary politics, a bratty truculence that gives context to the rebranded nativism of birthers, to Rep. Joe Wilson’s Tourette’s-like outburst during a State of the Union address, to Beck’s fevered dissociative ramblings, and the Muslim-socialist-fascist axis imagined by the unhinged. That immaturity found its most honest expression in a 2011 poll in which eleven per cent of white respondents said they felt that they are now the primary victims of racism. It is not hard to imagine that some future historian will refer to the Obama era, or at least the first four years of it, as the Age of Tantrums. Twenty years ago, in the midst of the culture wars, establishment critics assailed multiculturalism as an assault on the fabric of common citizenship. How ironic that it would be a black ma—who rose to prominence in 2006 by asserting that “there’s no white America or black America but the United States of America”—whose Presidency would ignite the balkanization they warned of.

There is an obvious downside to this familiarity with the obstacles implicit within a black Presidency. Obama at times tends toward insouciance regarding black voters who, epidermal affiliations aside, nonetheless represent roughly a quarter of his electorate and the single largest and most reliable voting block in the Democratic Party. That casual arrogance was on display when he warned the Congressional Black Caucus (already wavering in their support for him) to “stop complaining,” during a speech in 2011. There are moments where even amid the racial minefield his Presidency inhabits, he appears to have been let off easy; black America has settled for a brother who feels our pain, rather than evaluated how effectively he’s alleviated it. Yet even this frustration yields layers of complexity.

It’s also worth noting that despite the gossamer-thin margin separating them in this election, the Romney campaign did not, until relatively late in the game, resort to the kinds of coded racial appeals that were a cornerstone of Presidential politics. And when it did, the campaign’s loose talk about Obama undoing welfare reform and its head nod at birtherism seemed half-hearted and desperate, not an integral part of the strategy. Indeed, Romney’s most inflammatory statement—his reference to a parasitic forty-seven per cent of the population—suggested bigoted attitudes that ran along class lines, not epidermal ones. It’s possible that Romney, perhaps inspired by his father’s example, has no stomach for such racial measures. Or that the blowback would alienate more voters than those tactics would win over. It’s also possible that the Southern Strategy wouldn’t fly today because it would ruin our national high. We like ourselves now in the way the blissfully un-self-aware people often do. Even slick, encrypted racism might inspire a kind of historical reflux, remind us of the terrible limbic appeal of bigotry, and put us collectively in a bad head space. Things have changed, just not the things that many of us suspected on Election Day.

Malcolm X occupied a similar crossroads in American history, a point at which a vast chunk of history had fallen away and a new vista of possibilities emerged. His criticism of integration inspired a view of him as the antithesis of the movement associated with King. A more subtle reading of him suggested that he was a herald who saw more starkly than many the unpaved places in the road ahead. The demise of segregation was as stunning to his generation as the election of Barack Obama was to this one. The troubles and complexities that would follow both those events were seemingly cloaked by momentous victories—encrypted, as it were, by the tides of change.

The Obama Presidency has thus far validated both our hopes and our fears and given duelling legitimacy to optimism and cynicism simultaneously. It has pitted the audacity of hope against the recalcitrance of memory. If his election validated the ideals of King, what has happened since then lends credence to Malcolm X. What remains clear is that whether it’s a function of defiance or affirmation, Obama has already been inducted into a narrative black America tells itself, one in which we are the central characters and we are the primary deed-holders to our own triumphs. Whether or not he is reëlected is secondary to this concern. The more enduring question is whether black people will maintain a broader faith in America because a black man has been elected President, or despite it.

Top: Photograph by Christopher Anderson/Magnum. Middle: Photograph by Jelani Cobb.

Polygamy and U.S.Law

Musings from the Chiefio

I was looking at something altogether different, and ended up with an odd bit of “Oh Dear!” from a Supreme Court ruling.

It started with the Republican Convention and the oblique references to Romney being from a Mexican root. How deep was that root, I wondered. So I went looking.

The short form is that when the U.S. Government was abusing the Mormons in Utah (and it’s hard to interpret it as anything but that) a bunch of them “bugged out”. Some to Canada, some to Mexico, some to other places no doubt. Just looking for some peace.

Turns out Romney’s Granddad was one of them. Mitt’s Dad was born in Mexico, but being the child of an American Citizen, they kept the American citizenship line running. Later he returned to the USA and Mitt was born, so both born on U.S. Soil and the son of U.S. Citizens. Just…

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Judge Richard Posner: “I’ve Become Less Conservative Since The Republican Party Started Becoming Goofy.”

Bob Schwartz


Last month, Judge Richard Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago gave an interview to NPR’s Nina Totenberg.

Richard Posner is one of the most widely-respected judges and legal analysts in the country. Brilliant and forthright, he is admired by people across the political spectrum for his integrity, insight and elegant reasoning.

He has traditionally been identified as a conservative and with the Milton Friedman school of economics, but lately he has been reassessing that alignment:

“There’s been a real deterioration in conservative thinking. And that has to lead people to re-examine and modify their thinking….I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy.”

During the interview, he wondered aloud about what Chief Justice John Roberts must be thinking, having gone from conservative hero to goat because of his vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act:

“All of a sudden you find out…

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Week 1: U.S. Law

J Dyer Bus 263_80

Bear with me as I have never blogged or even read a blog before! I am still getting use to this.. but hey, that’s what we’re here for.. to learn, right? This week I explored the basic concept of law. Its definition, functions, fairness, and flexibility. Additionally, I learned the history of American law and the sources of law within the U.S.

Laws are rules of actions or conduct prescribed by controlling authority that have binding legal force. They are put in place to keep the peace, shape moral standards, promote social justice, maintain the status quo, facilitate orderly change, facilitate planning, provide a basis for compromise, and maximize individual freedom. Also, law is generally vague and variable, so to ebb and flow with changes over time within society, technology, etc. The U.S. Constitution is often referred to as a “living document” because it is so adaptable.

The founding fathers…

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