Patterico's Pontifications


Mitt or Newt? Pick your poison.

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 1:42 pm

[Posted by Karl]

It’s a niche sub-genre of political slapfight:

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich said Monday morning he would “consider” returning the money he earned as a consultant to mortgage giant Freddie Mac if Republican rival Mitt Romney returned his earnings from “bankrupting companies and laying off employees.”

Gingrich was responding to Romney’s call, on Fox and Friends earlier Monday, for Gingrich to return his Freddie Mac earnings, for which he has come under attack.

…and Newt tacked on the obligatory ironic denouncement of Mitt’s negativity for good measure.  Two points about the exchange leap to mind. 

First, Newt seems perfectly willing to attack from the left when challenged.  I have no sympathy on that score for Mitt Romney, who attacked Rick Perry from the left on entitlements.  However, Newt’s convenient disdain for the creative destruction necessary to a healthy market system ought to give more pause to those treating Gingrich as the True Conservative alternative to Romney.  Indeed, the attack only underscores that Gingrich sees nothing fundamentally wrong with having taken money to promote (or “not lobby” for) Freddie Mac as it — and other government distortions of the housing market — were about to be revealed as the bubble collapsed. 

Second, it’s a fair bet Team Obama will roll out either of those attacks if either Mitt or Newt is the nominee.  If it’s Mitt, we’ll hear a lot about Mitt being a one-percenter who got rich firing the proletartiat — and healthcare reform will be largely off the table.  If it’s Newt, we’ll hear a lot about the unpleasant, longtime Beltway insider and not-lobbyist — and the government’s role in precipitating our current economic malaise will be largely off the table.  The phrase “pick your poison” comes to mind.


PolitiFact’s Romneycare Bias

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 9:00 am

[Posted by Karl]

PolitiFact opines that it is “mostly false” that Mitt Romney called his Massachusetts health care law “the model for the country.”  They have dinged Rick Perry twice for making the claim, and Rick Santorum once.  Most of the debate concerns an excerpt from Romney’s book, No Apologies, which was altered between the hardback and paperback editions:

My own preference would be to let each state fashion its own program to meet the distinct needs of its citizens. States could follow the Massachusetts model of they choose, or they could develop plans of their own. These plans, tested in the state ‘laboratories of democracy’ could be evaluated, compared, improved upon, and adopted by others. But the creation of a national plan is the direction in which Washington is currently moving. If a national approach is ultimately adopted, we should permit individuals to purchase insurance from companies in other states in order to expand choice and competition.

What we accomplished surprised us: 440,000 people who previously had no health insurance became insured, many paying their own way. We made it possible for each newly insured person to have better care, and ultimately healthier and longer lives. From now on, no one in Massachusetts has to worry about losing his or her health insurance if there is a job change or a loss in income; everyone is insured and pays only what he or she can afford. It’s portable, affordable health insurance — something people have been talking about for decades. We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care. (Emphasis added.)

The highlighted phrase was scrubbed from the paperback.  PolitiFact opines:

Romney’s not really saying the Massachusetts law “should be the model for the country,” the way that Perry describes it. He’s in fact presenting a defense of state-level choice. It’s like a shout-out to other state leaders: Hey, you can have what Massachusetts has!

Shouting “you can have Romneycare” is not advocating it as a model for the country?  That’s an awfully weak apologia, particularly if you know that when Romneycare became law, Mitt wrote: “How much of our health-care plan applies to other states? A lot.”  It’s weaker still when you read what Mitt said in 2007 — and his explanation of it in 2010:

Back in February 2007, you said you hoped the Massachusetts plan would “become a model for the nation.” Would you agree that it has?
I don’t … You’re going to have to get that quote. That’s not exactly accurate, I don’t believe.

I can tell you exactly what it says: “I’m proud of what we’ve done. If Massachusetts succeeds in implementing it, then that will be a model for the nation.”
It is a model for the states to be able to learn from. During the campaign, I was asked if I was proposing that what I did in Massachusetts I would do for the nation. And the answer was absolutely not. Our plan is a state plan. It is a model for other states—if you will, the nation—it is a model for them to look at what we’ve accomplished and to better it or to create their own plans.

Note that even Romney’s attempted explanation at one point equates “other states” with the nation — which is what PolitiFact finds so objectionable coming from Perry and Santorum.  And the criticism from Perry and Santorum comes in part because because Romney once claimed that “a lot” of Romneycare applied to other states, but now says:

Our approach was a state plan intended to address problems that were in many ways unique to Massachusetts.

The point here is not to condemn Romney’s tapdancing, but PolitiFact’s claim that said tapdancing is “truth” while ignoring the overall political context.  The attempt to reduce debatable political questions to unquestionable articles of “truth” — typically to manufacture consent to center-left government — is endemic to the establishment media’s so-called fact-checking propaganda operations.  But PolitiFact is particularly egregious, as Mark Hemingway notes:

You can believe that Republicans lie more than three times as often as Democrats. Or you can believe that, at a minimum, PolitiFact is engaging in a great deal of selection bias, to say nothing of pushing tendentious arguments of its own.

The obvious selection bias here is that PolitiFact does not even consider Romney’s shifting claims about the broader applicability of Romneycare to be worthy of question.  But the selection bias on this topic runs deeper.

For example, Romney has repeatedly denied that Romneycare is similar to Obamacare.  Most everyone else — including PolitiFact — has concluded the two are mostly similar.  But if you peruse PolitiFact’s Mitt Romney file, you will find that so far, they have never dinged Romney himself for claiming the opposite.

Given that in previous years, PolitiFact has awarded its “Lie of the Year” to statements attacking Obamacare (one of which I have dissected before), a cynic might be forgiven for thinking that PolitiFact prefers defending ever-increasing government control of the healthcare system — whether that control is exercised by the state or the feds — over its supposed mission of fact-checking.


Sheer Political Genius: Romney Still Talking About That Elitist Sounding $10,000 Bet

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:28 am

In Saturday’s debate, Rick Perry made a claim about a line he said was removed from Mitt Romney’s book. (Politifact has the basic facts here. They claim Perry’s statement is “mostly false.” I’m not so sure.) Romney reacted by saying, essentially: oh yeah? As a really rich guy, let me bet you a huge sum of money that you’re wrong!

As you watch the clip, take care to note the extremely self-satisfied looks on each of these guy’s mugs:

Romney immediately drew fire for being “out of touch” — which he was, in spades. And today, he’s defending it — giving 24 hours of extra oxygen to a fire he should have allowed to die on its own.

Now, I’m not perfect, and I understand that debating requires one to think on one’s feet. And it’s easy to criticize sitting at my breakfast table. But it seems to me that both sides of this exchange were largely planned out.

And so, with that in mind, a little free political advice:

Mr. Romney: If a candidate makes a claim about you, and you are certain it is false and want to highlight that fact, why not extend your hand, tell him he’s wrong, and say that whoever loses the fact check on this one has to wear a dunce cap at the beginning of the next debate?

When he refuses, you can have a ready-made quip at the ready, and refer to it next time around. (No, I’m not giving you the quip. That kind of stuff costs money, pal. I can do it for . . . how does $10,000 sound?)

But making a big-money bet, and then yapping about it on Monday morning on the tube?

You get to wear the dunce cap.

UPDATE: Excellent! No sooner do I put up this post than Karl comes along and articulates exactly what I was thinking when I read that Politifact piece about the accuracy of Perry’s claim.

Another Example of How Lawyers Ignoring the Plain Meaning of Language Go Astray

Filed under: Court Decisions,Crime,General — Patterico @ 12:30 am

Here’s an interesting little legal issue — one that is apparently easier to resolve properly if you have not had legal training.

California Penal Code section 288.7(a) reads as follows:

Any person 18 years of age or older who engages in sexual intercourse or sodomy with a child who is 10 years of age or younger is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of 25 years to life.

That simple language in bold is apparently too difficult for some judges to understand.

Our hypothetical defendant is 19 years old. The evidence shows that he met the victim at her 10th birthday party. One week later, he had sex with her. Is he subject to the penalties provided by this law?

As a common sense person, dear reader, you are saying: of course he is! The victim was 10 when he had sex with her. She just had her 10th birthday! And the penalties apply if the victim is 10 or younger. What’s the problem?

It turns out that at least one California court saw a problem. That court said “10 years of age or younger” means “exactly 10 years old, not one day more” . . . or younger. In other words, the day after the victim’s birthday, she is no longer “10 years of age of younger” . . . according to these legal geniuses.

That conclusion is, of course, absurd. If you asked this girl how old she is, she would say: “ten.” If you asked her mother how old she is, she would say: “ten.” If you asked all her friends and relatives how old she is, they would say: “ten.” If the statute says the victim must be “10 years of age OR younger” and she is “10 years of age,” then the statute applies.

I don’t care what the legislative “intent” was. I don’t care about the “rule of lenity” or any other mumbo jumbo. Not in this case. Because here the language is clear. The girl is ten. The statute applies. Next case!

This is what I mean when I stress that “legislative intent” should not matter to the interpretation of a statute. This court actually bemoaned the fact that there was no legislative history available to help out. The court also noted that several other cases in other jurisdictions had resolved similar issues in the same silly way (as well as several that resolved it properly). The court further noted that, in many cases, “courts have been able to resolve the issue on the basis of an illuminating legislative history.”

Legislative history. Aaaaaargh!

So, let’s say a legislator didn’t like the law, and was pushing to make the victim’s age “11 years or younger” before harsher penalties kicked in — but ended up voting for the statute in a pander to the public. He could simply have a staffer slip something into the legislative record talking about how “10 years or age or younger” really excludes anyone who is 10 years and a day. And one suspects certain idiot judges would pay attention to that kind of dishonest crap.

Not me. To me, the words mean what they mean. Trying to divine some “legislative intent” from clues in speeches and notes from committee meetings is a fool’s errand. The plain language should control.

Luckily, sanity may win out. The California Supreme Court has granted review and the case may not be cited. At least one other court has come out with a sensible ruling going the proper way.

But when you throw common sense out the window, the law can take the most obvious, plain meanings of words, and twist them into something that would make the man on the street furrow his brow and say “What now??”

It’s not always lawyers who do this, mind you. But they seem to be mighty good at it.

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