Publishers Weekly on Political Books, w/My Take on the National Climate

A couple days after President Obama’s re-election last week, I was invited by Rachel Deahl of Publishers Weekly to comment on the current and future climate for political books.  She asked “what narratives seem to be emerging, or what narrative(s) you might be looking for.”  I heard from a friend today that this week’s print issue of the magazine has Rachel’s story, and though I haven’t seen that version yet, she just sent me a link to the story on line. It’s posted at the PW site, under the headline:  “Let’s Get Political”. I invite you to read the published story–there are seven publishing people quoted in it. Due to space I’m sure, the email comment I’d submitted was abridged, so I’m glad I can post my full remarks below, edited lightly for this space. Rachel also asked for a head shot, and since I’m not sure if the magazine used it, I’ll pasted in here at the bottom of the post.

Hi Rachel,

I’ve been through many presidential book cycles, and it is true that books published for the benefit of the out-party (anti-Bush books from 2000-08; anti-Obama books 2009-2012) tend to flourish in these times.

However, what I’d like to be seeing now as an author’s representative, a political blogger, an editor, and a reader is a break from the more vituperative titles. I think even rabid partisans are tiring of these titles and are beginning to show less suport for them than in the past. I think what we need, and what the politically engaged reading public craves, are vigorously reported books in which the author, while not reining in his opining or editorial comment, nonetheless allows a pointed narrative to emerge from the facts of their story. An example from years past of what I’m looking for now is typified by Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickled & Dimed.

For the many authors, and publishers, who’ve featured criticism of Pres. Obama in their books, I think they need to look in the mirror and offer work that is as much self-critical as it is bashing of the president. I suggest this not as a partisan from the other side, but as a way for them to establish and enhance their own credibility with a more diverse readership. After all, there must be some critical self-assessment in the wake of an election that did not go the way of their advocacy, lest they lose all credibility with a more general readership, and remain in the bubble that bred their lack of prescience.

For authors on the left or from the more traditional center, I look at Michael Grunwald’s The New New Deal (S&S, August 2012, my Oct. 12 #FridayReads blog entry), as an example of the kind of book I’d be looking for. Extensive reporting of facts (about the 2009 Federal stimulus) that build a case for his thesis that the Recovery Act was the most consequential legislation since the New Deal. The point of view in Grunwald’s book emerges from the reporting, not the other way around.

I will add that one genre I’ve not tired of is the traditional, Theodore White-style “Making of the President” narrative. My longtime author David Pietrusza has done books like this for such years as 1920, 1948, and 1960. I think it’s too late now for me to work on one of those about 2012, but I’d sure like to read one. That is, not a magazine piece, but a deeply reported and full textured portrait of the campaign.

Thanks for asking for my input, Philip

The Great Gray Bridge
Philip Turner Book Productions

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Mitt Affirms His 47% Remarks in Pathetic 1st Stab at a Campaign Post-Mortem

I’ve been blogging less about politics since the campaign ended last Tuesday, but am still keeping my eye on the news. An item crossed my path tonight that must be shared: Mitt’s first public post-mortem since his concession speech. As reported in the NY Times this evening, Romney and his campaign finance staff held a conference call with donors today. According to quoted portions, Romney attributed his defeat to President Obama having effectively won votes of lower-income voters by awarding them with “gifts.” The loser made, basically, the same argument as those gross super-pac ads being shown until last Tuesday, where an inner-city African-American woman talks excitedly about the “Obama phone” she’d supposedly been given by the federal government. His excuse for losing–to an audience of people whom he has an interest in convincing he didn’t piss their money away– was very similar to what he told donors in the 47% fundraising pitch. Interesting that he was speaking to contributors both times. The quotes are really offensive. Here are a couple chunks of it, from Ashley Parker’s story in the Times:

In a conference call on Wednesday afternoon with his national finance committee, Mr. Romney said that the president had followed the “old playbook” of wooing specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people,” Mr. Romney explained — with targeted gifts and initiatives.
“In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said.
“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” he said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”
The president’s health care plan, he added, was also a useful tool in mobilizing African American and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers — 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics voted to re-elect Mr. Obama.
“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge,” he said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free healthcare was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

On the tactical failures of his campaign,

“I’m very sorry that we didn’t win,” he said on the call. “I know that you expected to win, we expected to win, we were disappointed with the result, we hadn’t anticipated it, and it was very close but close doesn’t count in this business.”
He continued: “And so now we’re looking and saying, ‘O.K., what can we do going forward?’ But frankly we’re still so troubled by the past, it’s hard to put together our plans from the future.” . . .Still, Mr. Romney, ever the data-driven former consultant, offered a brief post-mortem analysis of where he and his campaign had fallen short. Last Wednesday and Thursday, he had convened informal what-went-wrong sessions in his Boston headquarters, where he and a small team of senior advisors pored over the numbers with Mr. Newhouse. And on the call, Mr. Romney also echoed a theme from the campaign trail, saying that while the Mr. Obama “made a big effort on small thing,” his message had been about ‘big issues.’
“Our campaign, in contrast, was talking about big issues for the whole country —military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth,” he said. “And by the way, as you’ll hear from Neil, our strategy worked well with many people, but for those who were given a specific gift, if you will, our strategy did not work terribly well.”

You’ll note Romney indulges in the “shellshock” meme to describe his reaction to losing, with a weak claim that he, like the donors, had also believed their own polls and persuasion apparatus. He avers that like them he’s still getting over it all. On TPM there’s been a vigorous debate about whether it’s plausible that the Romney-Ryan camp was really shocked to lose last week, and is supposedly still getting over it. I have a few questions in this area: ) Could they have been so naive as to believe their own hype? 2) Should we call them true believers enclosed in a bubble they’ve stopped noticing even surrounds them? 3) Or cagey pols who want to move on from this without a taint on their reputations, having through political and moral malpractice actually misspent so many hundreds of millions? I agree with Josh Marshall that Romney and his staff would rather be associated with the former than the latter.

Not only does Mitt’s portrayal of President Obama as Gift-Bestower-in-Chief show a consistent worldview–from the 47% remarks to today–show that he really believes a majority of American voters expect ‘stuff’ from the government. Worse, though, he also degrades the ‘stuff’ given them, like they were all baubles. Healthcare, college tuition, and legal status for immigrants–these are hardly luxuries. What a selfish man, for one who has so much to believe that taxpayers and the government should be miserly with people who have so much less.

About That 2016 Romney Reelection Bid

According to this Washington Post story by Peter Wallsten, Republican poobahs are so out of touch that on Election Night,

“Party leaders said they already had planned to poll voters in battleground states starting Tuesday night in anticipation of a Mitt Romney victory—to immediately begin laying the groundwork for midterm congressional elections and a Romney 2016 reelection bid.”

I actually had to read that twice to make sure I got it right. After my double-take, it sank in that Repubs had already been planning for Mitt’s reelection! Wow–they were planning to review why they’d won, and had anticipated no other result. Even if they believed so adamantly in their certain victory–despite the objective absurdity of it–wasn’t this extremely imprudent? Isn’t it wise to hope for the best, while planning for an outcome that falls short? This is as clear an instance of epistemic closure as I’ve yet seen, even from this political party that has made hermetically-sealed stupidity their singular trademark. In the wake of what was to them an unexpected drubbing,

“Top Republican officials, stunned by the extent of their election losses Tuesday night, have [instead] begun an exhaustive review to figure out what went so wrong and how to fix it.”

But in signs of a stunningly uninsightful self-assessment to come,

Party officials said the review is aimed at studying their tactics and message, not at changing the philosophical underpinnings of the party. ‘This is no different than a patient going to see a doctor,’ said Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s spokesman. ‘Your number one thing is to say, I’m not feeling well. Tell me what the problem is. Run some tests on me.’”

Well, a majority of the American people have already delivered their diagnosis, and it ain’t a pretty picture. Republicans need to revitalize their sclerotic circulatory system by allowing their organism to be transfused with new blood that will prompt new ideas and a new way of viewing the evolving American electorate.

Election Night on FOX, Rove Ranted & the Network Pimped Megyn Kelly

As if more proof were needed, this Gabriel Sherman report in NY magazine, tipped to me by TPM, shows how intertwined FOX News continues to be with the Repub establishment. On Tuesday night, after FOX, following the same decision by other networks, called Ohio for President Obama, there was a meltdown on the right, culminating in Karl Rove’s rant on camera, when he sounded like a spoiled child who wanted his toys back:

“Instantly, FOX phones lit up with angry phone calls and e-mails from the Romney campaign, who believed that the call was premature, since tallies in several Republican-leaning Southern counties hadn’t been been fully tabulated. ‘The Romney people were totally screaming that we’re totally wrong,’ one FOX source said. ‘To various people, they were saying, ‘your decision team is wrong.’ According to a FOX insider, Rove had been in contact with the Romney people all night. After the Ohio call, Rove—whose super-PAC had spent as much as $300 million on the election, to little avail—took their complaints public, conducting an on-air primer on Ohio’s electoral math in disputing the call.

I guess phone numbers of FOX senior producers is something Repub operatives are given when they get hired.

Sherman’s story also makes clear how willing FOX is to dangle and pimp their on-air female talent before male viewers.  In an impromptu episode that followed Rove’s refusal to accept the Ohio call for Obama, FOX producers sent host Megyn Kelly on a bizarre expedition down the hall to conduct an interview with the experts staffing the network’s election decision desk. Sherman reports that,

“One idea was for two members of the decision team, Mishkin and Fox’s digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt, to go on camera with Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier to squelch the doubts over the call. But then it was decided that Kelly would walk through the office and interview the decision team in the conference room. ‘This is Fox News,’ an insider said, ‘so anytime there’s a chance to show off Megyn Kelly’s legs they’ll go for it.’ The decision desk were given a three-minute warning that Kelly would be showing up.”

This isn’t a network, it’s a burlesque show.

Take that Sheldon Adelson!

Via TPM, most Jewish voters found Romney’s rhetoric about Israel, the United States and Iran, and that of his surrogates, completely unpersuasive. The president got 70% of Jewish voters, a slight shift down from 2008, but Romney managed only 30%! Can the media now stop shouting for a while about this topic, and enabling shouters like Rudy Giuliani, whose campaign excesses this time were egregious, even for him. It’s remarkable how much of Romney’s attacking rhetoric against the president was unavailing.

Canadians ♥ Barack Obama

I love that all my Canadian pals on my Twitter feed and Facebook page are going as crazy as my Yank pals. This is a big win for lots of people!

A PA Voting Machine Changes an Obama Vote to Romney

Via I see that Zachary Roth of NBC News is reporting on a voter in PA who uploaded a brief video of a worrisome glitch on the voting machine he was using. Under a youtube account name ‘centralpavoter,’ he left a very reasonable-sounding comment just below. He doesn’t claim anything more than what he observed, but what happened is disturbing. Please note that Roth reports the machine was taken out of use, after ‘centralpavoter’ alerted officials to the problem.

“My wife and I went to the voting booths this morning before work. There were 4 older ladies running the show and 3 voting booths that are similar to a science fair project in how they fold up. They had an oval VOTE logo on top center and a cartridge slot on the left that the volunteers used to start your ballot.

I initially selected Obama but Romney was highlighted. I assumed it was being picky so I deselected Romney and tried Obama again, this time more carefully, and still got Romney. Being a software developer, I immediately went into troubleshoot mode. I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine. Next I deselected her and started at the top of Romney’s name and started tapping very closely together to find the ‘active areas’. From the top of Romney’s button down to the bottom of the black checkbox beside Obama’s name was all active for Romney. From the bottom of that same checkbox to the bottom of the Obama button (basically a small white sliver) is what let me choose Obama. Stein’s button was fine. All other buttons worked fine.
I asked the voters on either side of me if they had any problems and they reported they did not. I then called over a volunteer to have a look at it. She him hawed for a bit then calmly said “It’s nothing to worry about, everything will be OK.” and went back to what she was doing. I then recorded this video.
There is a lot of speculation that the footage is edited. I’m not a video guy, but if it’s possible to prove whether a video has been altered or not, I will GLADLY provide the raw footage to anyone who is willing to do so. The jumping frames are a result of the shitty camera app on my Android phone, nothing more.”

This is the .18 sec video: