Mitt Loses It

There was a moment last election when you just knew it, knew it in your gut, that the Straight Talk Express was headed down a ravine: The moment John McCain “suspended” his campaign to “deal with” the bank crisis — something he was powerless to do anything about.

In that moment, McCain had proven, in the sight of all, that he had no business running the country. The desperation was palpable.

Tuesday night, we felt that moment in our gut again:

“I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi,” [Romney] said. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

Mitt’s lying, but never mind that — the lying is the least of it.

Instead, look what the late-night statement amounts to: Mitt’s opportunistically backseat-driving in the midst of a foreign crisis — one that involves the loss of American life.

This is not going to sit well among the foreign-policy crowd. This is not going to play well among the Villagers who enforce the No Politics During a Crisis rule. This is not going to help a candidate whose best-known foreign-policy achievement is insulting England.

Sure, Pam Geller will be happy. But that’s about it.

We’ve been saying for more than a year that Obama will win an electoral landslide, so short of voter suppression, this moment does nothing to change the outcome. But if you’re looking for the moment the race turns for good, that moment is now. Mitt’s behavior is so cancerous — especially now, post-conventions, when America’s paying attention — that he’ll never recover.


From Nojo’s linqued article:

Update: Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus accused the president of siding with the rioters:

Reince Priebus


Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.

Provoked by a wing nut religoid “film” sponsored by crazy wingnuts of the Jewish faith who hate brown people.

Yup, John McCain suspending his campaign was the first thing I thought of, too, when I heard this on Morning Joe.

Also, that if Mitt Romney were elected president, the country would look back fondly on and yearn for the measured, thoughtful foreign policy approach of George W. Bush.


These people are no better than KKK members agitating for a race war. Truly despicable people.

So I’m back to unemployment(ish). I saw the writing on the wall when my boss asked me to look the other way on another attorney/director’s ethical lapses. She told me the tribe has a “relaxed standard of ethics.” Well, fuck ’em cuz I don’t.

Seriously, who are his advisors? Who is coaching him on foreign policy? This is beyond clueless.

@Mistress Cynica: Plus, it gives Obama another opportunity to act Presidential and Hillary to look thoughtful, tough and, well, awesome.

Romney is trying to start multiple wars before the election? He can’t wait till after? He must not like his chances on November 6.

@Mistress Cynica: John Bolton, for one. Ha!

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Wow.

@ManchuCandidate: An Israeli real estate developer living in California. Asshole.

Mitt digs in deeper: “In a press conference delivered minutes after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the attacks…”

You don’t even need to know what he said. The timing screams desperation.

@Serolf Divad: From what I’m seeing elsewhere, everybody had the McCain thought at the same moment. And here I thought I was going out on a limb when I wrote it last night.

News now trickling out that the terrorists used the film trailer as cover — they were planning it all along, just waiting for a seeming provocation.

@nojo: Someone needs to tell Mitt to stop while he’s behind. Per TPM:

It was the second time in just over 12 hours that Romney had suggested the White House sided with rioters and militants. Romney’s initial statement came late Tuesday, after news had broke that an American officer had been killed in Libya, but before the State Department had confirmed Stevens was among the dead. It inaccurately suggested that the U.S. embassy in Cairo, which also came under attack, had issued a statement condemning an anti-Muslim film online that had sparked the riots as its “first response” to the violence. In fact, the embassy and multiple press reports assert that the statement came before the protests and was intended to head off a confrontation.

Now over to the New York Times:

Bracing for trouble before the start of the protests here and in Libya, the American Embassy released a statement shortly after noon that appeared to refer to Mr. Jones: “The United States Embassy in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” It later denounced the “unjustified breach of our embassy.”

Apparently unaware of the timing of the first embassy statement, the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, put out a statement just before midnight Tuesday saying, “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Mr. Romney also said he was “outraged” at the attacks on the embassy and consulate.

And back to TPM:

Romney defended his decision to condemn the president even when the facts and chronology were still unclear.

“I don’t think we ever hesitate when we see something which is a violation of our principles,” he said.

No kidding.

Mitt has principles? Besides the ones related to calculating interest.

@mellbell: This really is stunning — “political malpractice”, as the politicos like to say.

Neglecting to mention Afghanistan during an acceptance speech is something that cable chatterers note (Hi, Rachel!), but doesn’t really seep into public consciousness. But this? You can’t avoid it, even if you don’t normally pay attention.

Enjoy the debates, Mitt!

@nojo: I caught a bit of Rachel last night and for once thought that her show might actually be too inside baseball for its own good. The culprit? A casual reference to the Federal Register.

@mellbell: Fair criticism, but Rachel’s a moment of sanity between Ed and Lawrence.

@nojo: People here in the corridorscubicles of powerdrudgery are dumbstruck that the incidents were politicized, and so quickly. I rode the elevator with a couple of custodial workers who chatted, in Spanish, how stupid politicians can be. As in “los politicos”. All of them.

So while the foreign policy crowd (and our Dear Leader) think this is Mitt’s “I’m heading back to Washington” moment, the man and woman on the street just can’t believe fucking politicians would politicize another fucking tragedy. No nuances, no mention of one over the other. They are All to blame.

And the wingers will figure out a way to use this to print new t-shirts, create new radio waves, and yes – raise more money. Don’t count All Thumbs Mittens out just yet.

@mellbell: I used to pore over the paper copy of the FR on a daily basis, back when I wrote proposals to help my non-profit keep raking in $$ to pay for my salary. Good, clean geek fun.

I was feeling a bit disheartened and curled up in a ball last night with the news of the Moodys down grade threat, netanyahu making demands,the unemployment figures, a terrorist attack on embassies. All these things Romney could have latched on to make hay.

@Beggars Biscuit: Don’t count All Thumbs Mittens out just yet.

That was the thought that gave me pause last night — the Maybe I Should Run the Kitty Video Instead moment. I envisioned the entire Republican establishment rising as one behind Mitt, and his comments just turning into another partisan squabble. These things aren’t objective; it’s only a Fatal Error if everybody says it is.

And while Newt, Kristol and Talibunny are backing Mitt on this one, that’s not how it’s playing out elsewhere. Even Peggy Noonan is clutching her pearls.

Not that anybody pays attention to Peggy Noonan as such. But that attitude informs media coverage, and seeps into the national consciousness. I don’t see how Mitt gets out of this one with his reputation intact.

@nojo: He will rely on his base being dumb as a box of hammers, and racist.

@nojo: That said, the Kitty Video is really good.

@Dodgerblue: Ding ding ding.

I’m mostly upset that both Tripoli and Tunis are suddenly off the table for my next gig. In about a year I may in fact be worse off than I was four years before that.

@Dodgerblue: And thus the Pam Geller Approves line.

But here’s the problem: We’re not in the primaries any more. And the stronger Mitt plays to the wingnuts, the more he loses what thin slice of the Middle is up for grabs. It ain’t gonna be a popular-vote blowout, but Mitt is losing the margins — and he needs to win almost every tossup state in play to reach 270. Obama just needs to win any two.

And at this moment, Obama is winning all of them.

You can argue that it’s a Base Election anyway, that only blind hatred enthusiasm will get out the GOP vote. But the more Mitt frightens the shit out of everybody else, the more Demrat enthusiasm peaks.

I really don’t see Mitt surviving this. But I could be wrong. We’ll have to see how it plays tomorrow.

@Beggars Biscuit: I haven’t even had a moment to obsess over it this morning — the other news is too preoccupying.

But I’ll watch the entire presentation video tonight, as I always do. And then probably order it immediately. Because I need New Shiny! to see how my programming looks on one.

@nojo: As much as I like my 4S, and even got use to the blockier shape and learned to accept the fact that Siri isn’t as responsive to me as she is to Scorcese, I actually miss my 3GS. If the battery hadn’t gone out, I’d probably be waiting on this release to even consider an upgrade.

As it is, I’m on the verge of boycotting AT&T. That grandfathered $30 a month unlimited data plan they gave me? Turns out that when I use my jailbroken phone as a wi-fi hotspot so I can watch Stewart, Colbert and the Pittsburgh Brickbats from my remote location, they slow down my connection after I’ve exceeded some arbitrary limit.

That’s just cold.

So my question is, how are the right-friendly blogs/media folks spinning this? What are they saying? Are they ignoring it?

@Beggars Biscuit: I have a 4, so my two-year jail term is up.

I also bought a refurb 3GS for development over the summer. Glad I skipped it the first time — feels plasticy to me, but clearly that’s a matter of taste.

And AT&T? Well, yeah.

But I’m at the Stinque Remote Office right now, and as sometimes happens, their wifi is down (love the joint despite that), so I have my iPhone Internet tethered to my laptop over USB. I pay AT&T that fucking $45 a month for “legal” tethering, but it works.

I also deduct it as a business expense. Freelance does have some advantages.

@Beggars Biscuit: When I recently bought an unlocked iPhone, I deliberately chose the 3GS–as much for it’s sleeker design as for the ridiculous $300 difference in price. Running nicely on a $45/mo StraightTalk SIM card. Suggestions for SIM cards in England and Germany, anyone?

@IanJ: NRO is doing its best: right statement, wrong timing.

Establishment Republicans (Boehner, et al) are ducking it: Boilerplate statements condemning the atrocity — i.e., what Mitt should have said in first place. There’s a SOP for this kind of thing.

I haven’t been exhaustive in my travels, but the farther Right you go, the more willing you are to stand up for Mitt. Problem is, you have to be well into the Red Zone before you start hearing that.

@Mistress Cynica: You and me both. $45 unlimited. Woo hoo. Siri, however, seems to have trouble with my accent. Either she says ‘You sound hot,’ or ‘Google it yourself, you Limey asshole.’

@Beggars Biscuit: I didn’t want to seem shallow so I’m glad you brought that up.

@IanJ: Let’s visit Legal Insurrection, to the right of Bad-Timing NRO:

Dead Ambassador dragged through streets, MSM furious at Romney criticism of Obama

Update: Peggy Noonan organizes circular firing squad

That’s how it’s playing out there.

My ultra-long-shot hope: Black Eagle goes on national TV and, since he’s spent the last year+ taking fire for it *anyways*, actually apologizes for the ongoing hate campaign being sponsored and vigorously pursued by elements in this country.

And none of this, “some (unnamed) people are saying bad things” – I’m talking a straight-up “yes, there ARE people in the US who are spreading hate; here’s a short list”. Trot out Atlas Juggs, and the morons who think giving fascist clowns like Geert Wilders money is a good thing, and all the rest of the “OMG MOOSLEMS” crowd.

If nothing else, all the simultaneous brick-shitting would make a beautiful sound. :)

@Mistress Cynica: Bene can probably give you vendors and pricing for the Old Country, but the beauty of virtually every other country on the planet is that you can just walk into the same shops that sell you your smokes, newspaper and toothbrush and buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM card.

@al2o3cr: You know he’s capable of laying it on the line, but the problem with Naming Names is that if you’re the Preznident of These United States, you risk elevating them with the attention. Pam Geller would love nothing more than to be directly criticized from the White House.

@Beggars Biscuit: When I last lived there the post came three times a day. The last being just in time for tea. You waited 9 months to get a telephone installed.

PS. My friends call me Dick.

@al2o3cr: Personally what I think is amazing about him, apart from the quality of his haberdashery, is that he doesn’t do any of those things. He’s like Jackie Robinson. With better neckties. (For those who don’t know, JR played Sport and was the first black player to integrate the Sport team. I know this because I saw the musical.)

@Dodgerblue: The backstory of the movie is still evolving. Seems the named developer is actually a pseudonym. So that’ll be playing out while everything else does.

Are we seeing the stories about the so-called producer not being a real person and that this is the work of far-right operatives out to damage Obama?

@nojo: Ha’aretz is making that claim — that the filmmaker is neither Israeli nor Jewish. They hope.

@Benedick: I’m so pleased that you know and appreciate who Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson was. Do you know the story about him and Dodger Pee Wee Reese? There is a children’s book about it that I used to read to my kids.

@Benedick: Must have been strengthened by the iPhone Force.

Here’s what happened:

Romney was on the phone to the Caymans, Vanuatu and Lichtenstein running his trusts, stepping on his dog’s head for fun, and was interrupted by Eric Fehrnstrom, the ex-cops reporter for the Boston Herald who is now his campaign manager for reasons beyond anyone’s comprehension.

Fernstrom said, ‘Let’s rip a hole in the Kenyan Interloper for encouraging his raghead buddies to attack our embassies. The base will go fucking wild and independents will have another reason to Hate El-Bama!’

Romney: ‘Duh, good idea, Eric. What do I have to say?’

Obama: “Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later.”

Popcorn for everybody!

@FlyingChainSaw: This sounds entirely plausible.

@Dodgerblue: Ha’aretz is making that claim — that the filmmaker is neither Israeli nor Jewish. Which leaves gay. Anyone seen Catt?

Re: Sport. The Jackie Robinson musical (The First rapidly renamed among the queens of Broadway as The Worst) featured a first act finale with Jackie on the mound – that’s something they stand on, I don’t know why – singing defiantly about his feelings – which would seem appropriate at Yankee stadium – or whatever stadium it was – climaxed by a watermelon, thrown by a racist in the crowd, which broke apart at his feet – remember, it’s 8 times week so props are built to last – at which point David Alan Grier (it’s OK if you’ve zoned out, I’m bored beyond belief myself) raised his head and flared his nostrils at the audience to bring the anthemic song to an end with, I’m guessing, the word ‘Me.’ Most schlock musical anthemic first act closers end with this word. Trouble is, eee closes the throat so one’s got to sing ayy while thinking eee. It’s never pretty. Where was I? Oh right. Sport. Well. Obviously. I had to be taken outside on account of laughing uncontrollably.

@Benedick: I see on IBDB that it ran for less than a month. Reminds me of how long the Dodgers played good baseball this season.

BTW, did you see Red when it was in NYC? I’m still thinking about it.

@nojo: Well that’s the most interesting thing I’ve yet heard about him. Could we please hear more about this shooting? Does it involve volume or range? Does it take two hands to control? Is it like a firehose? Is this an inherited trait? As in the Romney ‘Boys

@Benedick: Does it take two hands to control? Yes, but with mittens. They’re Mormons after all.

@Beggars Biscuit: See, I’ve never cared much for “Mittens”, but it was grandfathered in, so whatever.

On the other hand: “Magic Mittens”? That I like.

I just spent ten minutes of my life entering just about the wittiest, most trenchant comment ever only to be cockblocked by an emoji! Fuck you, US Character Viewer.

Building on Mitt’s fit it had to do with sweat lodges, basement wrestling, pecs, and agents. Oh and Sport in some sense. And watermelons. I would try to recreate it but as Oscar Wilde once famously said, WTF.

@nojo: The fact that he is perpetually all thumbs gives the nickname, um, legs.

@karen marie still has her eyes tight shut: Yeah. And they wonder why the federal government doesn’t want to give them more sovereignty.

For the record, Pareene disagrees with the McCain comparison:

Once the shock of Romney’s craven statement and embarrassing press conference fade, he’ll continue blaming last night’s horrific events on Obama’s “weakness” and his allies and surrogates will continue repeating the notion that Obama’s true sympathies are closer to the people who attacked our embassy than to those who lost their lives trying to defend and escape it. They will just be careful to do it in a fashion that won’t upset Mark Halperin and Chuck Todd quite so much.

Maybe last spring. But this is September. Everybody’s watching.

@nojo: He needs a Hail Joseph Smith’s Mary, and may be desperate enough to try and run with this until the debates. Then he has three chances to change the narrative through a leveraged buyout of the media’s notoriously short attention span.

There’s a reason it’s called an October surprise. What happens in September can stay in September – assuming everything else is equal. Which of course it’s not, so for now we poke him to check for signs of life.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: I’m a year out from being unemployedish. Three years ago my term limited contract was called a “technicality”. Now nobody will take my calls unless I’m being shot at.

@Beggars Biscuit: Well, the desperation has always been clear — Mitt really is congenitally moderate, but he wants the trophy more than he values his soul.

And since this plays to the Rabid Base — which frightens him to death — yeah, he’ll keep running with it. Obama Apology Tour, and all that.

But it will come up during a debate, and Obama will throw elbows. That’s when Mitt has to think on his feet, and Mitt doesn’t do that well.

@Benedick: Five bucks says it’s Orly.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Can I buy you a drink? Seriously. I’m in your town tonight, perhaps tomorrow night. No car, though. Send me a FB msg.

@Beggars Biscuit: Y’know, I don’t think September is as quiet as it used to be…

Back when conventions were held in July, sure — dead air until the debates. But coming off two solid weeks of conventions, with prime-time viewers in the tens of millions, and the Obama bounce still peaking…

Maybe if this had happened next week, people would have had enough time to tune out. But at this particular moment, it’s reinforcing thoughts that are fresh in their memory. If they tune out now, for the rest of the month, this will be the last thought they gave it.

And that’s where inertia kicks in: There’s nothing to stop Mitt’s slide.

We won’t really know until the polls catch up next week. But Mitt’s certainly not winning any campaign days. And if everybody gets bored, there’s always his tax returns.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: I saw this comment over mediocre wifi and couldn’t reply.

I am really fucking proud of you and honored to have you as a friend.

As Saw would say, you’re one of the few people “who keep the Earth on its axis.”

@JNOV: Thank you so much, JNOV. You don’t know how much that means to me.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: I recently read David Foster Wallace’s essay (well, technically a book review) on “Authority and American Usage,” and was struck by his argument that, just as an action isn’t ethical simply because it’s widespread, a word or phrase isn’t proper English simply because it’s widely used. To wit:

If a physics textbook operated on Descriptivist principles, the fact that some Americans believe electricity flows better downhill (based on the observed fact that power lines tend to run high above the homes they serve) would require the Electricity Flows Better Downhill Hypothesis to be included as a “valid” theory in the textbook — just as, for Dr. Fries, if some Americans use infer for imply or aspect for perspective, these usages become ipso facto “valid” parts of the language. The truth is that structural linguists like Gove and Fries are not scientists at all; they’re pollsters who misconstrue the importance of the “facts” they are recording. It isn’t scientific phenomena they’re observing and tabulating, but rather a set of human behaviors, and a lot of human behaviors are — to be blunt — moronic. Try, for instance, to imagine an “authoritative” ethics textbook whose principles were based on what most people actually do.

Grammar and usage conventions are, as it happens, a lot more like ethical principles than like scientific theories. The reason the Descriptivists can’t see this is the same reason they choose to regard the English language as the sum of all English utterances: they confuse mere regularities with norms.

Norms aren’t quite the same as rules, but they’re close. A norm can be defined here simply as something that people have agreed on as the optimal way to do things for certain purposes. Let’s keep in mind that language didn’t come into being because our hairy ancestors were sitting around the veldt with nothing better to do. Language was invented to serve certain very specific purposes — “That mushroom is poisonous”; “Knock these two rocks together and you can start a fire”; “This shelter is mine!” and so on. Clearly, as linguistic communities evolve over time, they discover that some ways of using language are better than others — not better a priori, but better with respect to the community’s purposes. If we assume that one such purpose might be communicating which kinds of food are safe to eat, then you can see how, for example, a misplaced modifier could violate an important norm: “People who eat that kind of mushroom often get sick” confuses the message’s recipient about whether he’ll get sick only if he eats the mushroom frequently or whether he stands a good chance of getting sick the very first time he eats it. In other words, the fungiphagic community has a vested practical interest in excluding this kind of misplaced modifier from acceptable usage; and, given the purposes the community uses language for, the fact that a certain percentage of tribesmen screw up and use misplaced modifiers to talk about food safety does not eo ipso make m.m.’s a good idea.

Maybe now the analogy between usage and ethics is clearer. Just because people sometimes lie, cheat on their taxes, or scream at their kids, this doesn’t mean that they think those things are “good.” The whole point of establishing norms is to help us evaluate our actions (including utterances) according to what we as a community have decided our real interests and purposes are. Granted, this analysis is oversimplified; in practice it’s incredibly hard to arrive at norms and to keep them at least minimally fair or sometimes even to agree on what they are (see e.g. today’s Culture Wars). But the Descriptivists’ assumption that all usage norms are arbitrary and dispensable leads to — well, have a mushroom.

Which is a perhaps overlong way of saying that you were right to stick to your guns. Don’t let the bastards get you down.

Damn, Wallace was awesome. Thanks for posting that, mellbell.

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