Scandals Undercut Obama Re-Election Message; Bio Battle: Rick from Paint Creek Versus Willard from Bloomfield Hills
Third Scandal Drags on Obama Campaign
"The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad… The timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up."
First there was Fast and Furious, then there was Solyndra and now there is LightSquared -- three high-level scandals that involve allegations of cover-ups inside the Obama administration.
For a president who is already dragging an unpopular agenda and low marks on his handling of the economy along the campaign trail, this scandal troika is seriously bad news.
Obama is working desperately to prove to voters that he’s more interested in getting results than playing politics. He took a break from his series of campaign stops in battleground states (Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, back to Ohio next week) on Thursday and was wooing big-dollar donors in Washington. He explained that while it might look like he is engaged in his own re-election campaign, his is merely involved in “governance” by working to pass a new stimulus package.
“There’s a time for governance and there’s a time for making a political case,” Obama told donors. “My hope is, is that we’re going to keep on seeing some governance out of Washington over the next several months, because the American people can’t afford to wait for an election to actually see us start doing something serious about our jobs.”
This is a central part of Obama’s 2012 political pitch: That he is above politics, while his adversaries are unpatriotically grubbing for votes.
It takes chutzpah to make that case in the midst of a swing-state tour and at a dinner for political donors, but it’s an argument that Obama relied on during his remarkable political rise. It is understandable that he would want to use the same tool now that he is seeking to revive his fortunes.
The scandals, though, make the task harder.
The latest one involves confidential testimony from Gen. William Shelton, head of the Air Force’s Space Command, whom congressional sources say told a House Armed Services subcommittee that he was pressured to change his prepared remarks in a way that would benefit a major Democratic donor.
Philip Falcone is one of the big backers of LightSquared, a telecommunications company that wants to develop a nationwide satellite phone network. Falcone is a billionaire hedge-fund manager who is known as “the Midas of misery” for his skills at exploiting economic failure. He is also a big political campaign contributor, usually to Democrats.
His LightSquared venture requires federal authorization because of concerns that it would interfere with the satellite-driven GPS system that guides the U.S. military. Shelton reportedly said he was pressured to change his conclusion that the LightSquared plan was too risky. If the plan is nixed, Falcone and his partners stand to lose big.
A motive for trying to get Shelton to shade his testimony might also be found in the fact that the Obama administration has long been pushing for the idea of a national wireless broadband system, the very thing that Falcone and Co. are selling. If the generals say no to LightSquared it could permanently derail the pet project. But the involvement of a Democratic donor casts the pall of cronyism on the whole mess.
Only three entities review a general’s prepared testimony: Department of Defense, the White House, and the Office Management and Budget, so Shelton’s accusation is potent stuff.
This comes as new emails reveal that White House officials who were supposed to be vetting failed solar panel maker Solyndra, also run by a major Democratic donor, for a half-billion-dollar subsidized loan were very much interested in “optics” and political ramifications of their decisions.
Politics were at play when the White House revived the idea that had been tabled during the Bush administration and at play again as Obama officials fretted over how to manage the firm’s collapse in the least damaging way for the president’s re-election.
As evidence piles up in the Solyndra case, new details continue to emerge on the Fast and Furious probe that show a much larger scale for the Justice Department’s botched gunrunning sting, which encouraged illegal gun trafficking to drug gangs and then lost track of the weapons.
Here, there is no claim of cronyism, but there is the strong allegation from Republicans in Congress that the administration has withheld details of the operation now linked to the murder of a Border Patrol agent and other crimes in order to spare the administration further political embarrassment.
As Obama works to revive his brand as a man beyond petty politics, these three slow-burning political scandals will continue to undercut his claim.
Perry Uses Biography in Electability Fight With Romney
“As a son of farmers, I wasn't born with four aces in my hand. But like many of you, the American dream was available to us because this country is not a class-based society. Anyone can achieve anything they desire. Too many Americans today are not experiencing that opportunity.”
-- Texas Gov. Rick Perry campaigning in Greene County, Iowa referring to Mitt Romney’s claim that Texas’ economic success under Perry’s leadership was a matter of luck, like drawing four aces in a poker game.
Republican voters want a winner for 2012 most of all, and Mitt Romney is working hard to show that Rick Perry is simply too radical to get the job done with a barrage of attacks on Perry’s salty stances on Social Security.
Perry’s counterpunch is that Romney is too liberal to offer a clear contrast with President Obama and that voters will stick with an incumbent unless they are given a dramatic alternative. Perry has stepped up his rhetoric against Romney’s 2007 health care law that, like the president’s national program, requires all citizens to either purchase private health insurance or be enrolled in a government plan.
Electability arguments are tough to make in primaries because in order to make them, one has to echo the kinds of attacks made by the other side. In 2008, Hillary Clinton’s basic argument was that Obama was too inexperienced, too liberal and too different to win in the general election. Democrats hated her for it because it made Clinton sound like a Republican. Republicans, similarly, may not like to hear Romney hammer one of his own for being too radical on Social Security since it is a charge constantly leveled at their party by Democrats.
Perry has been trying to avoid this by telling Republicans what they want to hear: that only stringent conservatism can prevail in 2012 and that Romney is just too squishy.
But the Texas governor has also started to make a more subtle argument in favor of his own chances against Obama: Perry’s own biography.
Talking to Iowa Republicans in rural Greene County on Thursday, Perry reminded voters of his humble beginnings in Haskell County, Texas as the son of tenant cotton farmers. He used one of Romney’s attacks from Monday’s CNN/Tea Party Express debate in which the former frontrunner said Perry wasn’t a good economic governor, but just lucky to be in Texas – that Perry drew four aces and thought that made him a good poker player.
When Perry said that he wasn’t “born with four aces” in Paint Creek, Texas, the comparison to the privileged Romney was pretty plain. While Romney focuses on his great success in the business world, he was born with advantages unknown to most Americans. The emerging argument from Perry is that Romney will be too easy a foil for an inevitable class warfare attack from the Obama campaign as one who was born rich and then got richer.
Like Bill Clinton in 1992, Perry is leaning heavily on his own life story and humble beginnings. Clinton was the “man from Hope” while Perry is rooting himself deeply on the banks of Paint Creek. Perry also emphasizes his military service flying cargo planes for the Air Force for five years after graduating from Texas A&M. Neither Romney nor Obama served in the military.
Romney needs to make the electablity argument stick quickly. Maintaining an attack on Perry for being too far right could turn off a very conservative Republican electorate that has long been suspicious of Romney’s moderation.
Going into the last debate, Republicans overwhelmingly thought Perry was better suited to beat Obama. A CNN poll found 42 percent of GOP voters viewed Perry as the most electable compared to 26 percent for Romney.
At the Sept. 22 FOX News/Google debate, watch for Perry to draw out these biographical differences with Romney – Rick from Paint Creek versus Willard from Bloomfield Hills.