Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cruising the Web

The NYT had a story yesterday about Marco Rubio's personal finances. The implication was that he had managed his own finances unwisely and, by extension, should not be given the management of the nation's finances by election to the presidency.
For years, Senator Marco Rubio struggled under the weight of student debt, mortgages and an extra loan against the value of his home totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in 2012, financial salvation seemed to have arrived: A publisher paid him $800,000 to write a book about growing up as the son of Cuban immigrants.

In speeches, Mr. Rubio, a Florida Republican, spoke of his prudent plan for using the cash to finally pay off his law school loans, expressing relief that he no longer owed “a lady named Sallie Mae,” as he once called the lender.

But at the same time, he splurged on an extravagant purchase: $80,000 for a luxury speedboat, state records show. At the time, Mr. Rubio confided to a friend that it was a potentially inadvisable outlay that he could not resist. The 24-foot boat, he said, fulfilled a dream.
If you look at a picture of his boat, it hardly seems to qualify as a "luxury speedboat." The Times also makes a deal about his home in Florida.
Then, by the end of 2005, the Rubios had completed the purchase of a new home, twice the size of their previous one, for $550,000. The house, among the more expensive in West Miami, stood out from the aging homes nearby: It includes an in-ground pool, a handsome brick driveway, meticulously manicured shrubs and oversize windows.
Ed Morrissey excavates several other journalistic descriptions of Rubio's home in much more modest terms. Having lived in Ft. Lauderdale for several years, I can testify that, even the most middle class neighborhoods had in-ground pools for almost every house. And a house that goes for $550,000 doesn't necessarily indicate a luxurious mansion, just the housing prices in the area. A house of 2700 square feet is not all that expansive for a family with four young children. And many, many families living in South Florida own such fishing boats. Morrissey links to this tweet by Bill Sanderson.
The Rubio campaign is cleverly using the Times story to show that Rubio relates to the common man.
Communications Director Alex Conant released the following statement Tuesday morning, Mediaite reported: “The New York Times today attacked Marco Rubio because he could not afford to pay for college, arrogantly describing his student loan debt as ‘a financial hole of his own making.’ The attack from the Times is just the latest in their continued hits against Marco and his family. […] First The New York Times attacked Marco over traffic tickets, and now they think he doesn’t have enough money. Of course if he was worth millions, The Times would then attack him for being too rich, like they did to Mitt Romney,” Mr. Conant said, Mediaite reported.

When contacted for The Times’ story, Mr. Rubio said “Like most Americans, I know what it’s like for money to be a limited resource and to have to manage it accordingly. Our primary financial motivation over the last 15 years has not been to become wealthy. It has been to provide for our children a happy upbringing and the chance at a great future.”
While not quite the proverbial log cabin family background, Rubio's financial history is in stark contrast to the Clintons who were "dead broke" when they left the White House, but still seemed able to buy to million-dollar estates.

It leads Allahpundit to wonder why the NYT has been working so hard to "Make Rubio seem like an ordinary guy." Even liberals seem rather unimpressed with the Times story.
Rubio poses a special challenge to her in that he’s got icon potential too — young, handsome, waaaay more charismatic, and with his own trailblazing identity-politics narrative. Maybe what the Times is up to is trying to “shlub-ify” him somehow. He’s not an icon, he’s just a middle-class novice pol who can’t balance his own checkbook. While he was busy trying to figure out how to pay for a boat, Hillary was busy running a multimillion-dollar “charity” slush fund and deleting public records en masse from her private e-mail server. You may disdain the way she does business, but she’s smart enough to make the system work for her. Rubio’s just a chump. That narrative is a reaction to six years of Hopenchange: We tried the young relatable guy who preached good government and Change in 2008, now we’re ready for someone who knows where the bodies are buried in D.C. and can get things done. They’re demystifying Rubio before the mystique can really build. The problem with that theory, though, is that it contradicts rule one of politics: It’s always, always a good thing for a pol to be seen by voters as One Of Us.

Ashe Schow notes how the NYT's weak stories just provide an unfavorable contrast between Rubio and Hillary.
The timing of the Times' story reminds us all yet again that 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has much, much bigger scandals.

She had her own struggles with finances. The Times picked a perhaps unfortunate day to release its "scoop" about Rubio's debt, because it is the one-year anniversary of Clinton's "dead broke" comment.

It was June 9, 2014, when Clinton told ABC News that she and former president Bill left the White House "dead broke" and struggled with debt.

"We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt," Clinton told ABC News host Diane Sawyer. "We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to, you know, piece together the resources for mortgages, for houses, for Chelsea's education. You know, it was not easy."

Want to talk about mismanaging finances? Try being married to the governor of a state (while you're partner at a prominent law firm) who becomes president of the United States and still being broke.

The Times' hit piece on Rubio points out that his book helped pay off his debt. The Clintons' exorbitant speaking fees helped pay off theirs; is that really so bad?

Ed Morrissey writes,
So Rubio spent 10% of his book advance on a luxury item? That leaves, what, $720,000 for paying the bills? Funny, no one seemed terribly interested in how the Clintons could afford to buy two expensive houses while later claiming to be “dead broke” as they exited the White House — Bill to a lucrative speaking career, Hillary to the Senate, and both to humongous book advances that dwarfed Rubio’s deal.....

The Times’ sudden interest in the minutiae of Marco Rubio’s life also is rather curious, especially their intent to paint it in the worst possible light. In this case, tongue-clucking over the purchase speedboat with Rubio’s own cash as a “penchant for luxury” while Hillary Clinton’s private-jet travel gets covered by a “charity” is a rather interesting contrast — and quite revealing about the media outlet attempting to make the Rubios appear nouveau riche.

Roger Simon ponders the New York Times' "Rubio Derangement Syndrome."
But it’s clear what we have here is full-blown RDS on the part of the Times avant la lettre. Why? Well, as many suggested, Rubio is young, gifted, charismatic and Hispanic — a potential winner against the aging and oh-so-familiar Hillary in a general election. But that still doesn’t quite account for the nuttiness at the Times. After all, they’re spending more time investigating Rubio a year and a half out than they ever did at far more significant matters like Obama’s still unknown college record.

Perhaps it’s because Rubio threatens not just Hillary but them. He threatens their world view that the cool guy is always on the Democratic side. He exposes them for what they are — not exactly “with it,” but actually very square and old fashioned. Liberalism, despite its recent supposed renaissance, is dead ideologically, out of ideas.

As Noah Rothman comments, the NYT's two lame attack pieces on the Rubios are making Rubio into a more appealing figure.
Though these dubious investigations have prompted reliably credulous pundits to gasp in horror, it’s unclear that they will have any negative effect on Rubio’s presidential prospects. Quite the opposite, in fact; by overshooting Rubio’s bow on two separate occasions, the Times risks making one of the GOP’s brightest prospects a target of sympathy among precisely the voters to whom he needs to appeal in order to win his party’s presidential nomination.
Nothing serves to make a Republican politician more popular among Republicans than the perception that the media is attacking him or her unfairly. And the connections between the NYT and a Democratic oppo research group in coming up with the information for the 'pathbreaking' story that the senator had four tickets in almost two decades while his wife had quite a bit more throws more doubt on the Times' motives.
What’s more, the dragging of a candidates’ spouse into the vetting process, particularly this early in the campaign, does raise ethical matters. For Democrats who of late have convinced themselves that women are routinely subjected to scrutiny otherwise not applied to men, the left has been curiously quiet about the Times decision to target Janette Rubio. Finally, as Jonathan Tobin noted, this story’s impact on the general electorate, much less GOP primary voters, is probably one that Marco Rubio would welcome. It projects youth and vitality (the elderly seldom speed or, in the Clintons’ case, drive at all). What’s more, the story stood as an indication that the former speaker of the Florida House declined to use his influence to hide or get out of these violations....

Again, the pundit class is missing the likely political effect of the Times’ hit on the Rubios. The tale of a young family struggling to make ends meet and, on a handful of occasions, spending beyond their means in order to enjoy a bit of the good life is a common story. If anything, the New York Times has made Rubio more understandable to both average Americans and to those Republican primary voters who are deeply suspicious of the Grey Lady’s motives.

The New York Times seems to think that the Rubios profligacy when they were younger contradicts the senator’s present message of fiscal restraint on the macro level, but this is a tendentious contention. If anything, the Times has helped to craft a financial contrast with Hillary Clinton that will only benefit him if he were to emerge the GOP’s presidential nominee. What’s more, the impression that the talented Republican figure is the subject of reportorial persecution, even if that is an unfounded belief, will likely yield some sympathy from GOP primary voters.

The Rubios should send reporters in the New York Times newsroom a thank you card. That is, if they can afford the expense. The “newspaper of record” has done the senator’s campaign a great service.

Perhaps the NYT sees what Stuart Rothenberg writes about as he wonders whether Marco Rubio can "Save the GOP in 2016."

And let's remember that the Obamas have talked about their own difficulties paying off their own student loans and that they weren't able to pay them off until he got the advance for his book. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun Times writes,
Obama took out $42,753 in loans to pay for his Harvard Law School tuition. Michelle signed notes for $40,762 in loans for her Harvard Law education. That’s on top of their undergraduate loans. The couple carried their college debt 25 years—even as they were making decent incomes.

I first reported on the Obama student loan numbers when he ran for president in 2008, when I wrote, “On the campaign trail, I’ve heard them both often lament about how, back in the day, money was tight and their loans for their undergraduate years and Harvard Law School were never paid off until after Obama signed a $1.9 million book deal in 2004.”

On Thursday, Obama said, “I was in my 40s when we finished paying off our debt. And — and we should have been saving for Malia and Sasha by that time.
Hmmm, not so different from the Rubios, is it?

Rothman points to several pundits who were aghast at Rubio's finances and felt that that disqualified him from becoming president and being given control of the nation's finances. Were they so concerned about the Obamas' inability to pay off their student loans while still earning nice salaries?

Peter Wehner links to this poll result done by the Bipartisan Policy center that demonstrates how tribal we've become in judging policy prescriptions.
What’s the relationship between party identification and issue positions? Many assume that a voter’s positions determine their party. It ain’t necessarily so.

Indeed, in some instances, the reverse is true: People’s partisanship can determine their issue positions. When they identify with a party and know which party is on what side of an issue, partisanship can count more than policy.

An experiment we conducted with our colleagues at North Star Research in a poll for USA Today and the Bipartisan Policy Center illustrates the point (though I alone am responsible for any errors in interpretation here).
We presented respondents with two different education plans, the details of which are unimportant in this context. What is important is that half the sample was told A was the Democratic plan and B was the Republican plan, while the other half of our national sample was told A was the Republican plan and B was the Democrats’ approach.

The questions dealt with substantive policy on a subject quite important to most Americans — education — and issues that people are familiar with — class size, teacher pay and the like.

Nonetheless, when the specifics in Plan A were presented as the Democratic plan and B as the Republican plan, Democrats preferred A by 75 percent to 17 percent, and Republicans favored B by 13 percent to 78 percent. When the exact same elements of A were presented in the exact same words, but as the Republicans’ plan, and with B as the Democrats’ plan, Democrats preferred B by 80 percent to 12 percent, while Republicans preferred “their party’s plan” by 70 percent to 10 percent. Independents split fairly evenly both times. In short, support for an identical education plan shifted by more than 60 points among partisans, depending on which party was said to back it.

Thus, policy positions were not driving partisanship, but rather partisanship was driving policy positions. Voters took whichever position was ascribed to their party, irrespective of the specific polices that position entailed.
I guess it's become too difficult for many people to think about policy prescriptions and evaluate them independently. Instead, people just vote along with their team without having to expend any further thought. Wehner comments,
The Ayres and Mellman survey is ingenious because it empirically revealed an uncomfortable reality: the views many of us hold are largely dictated by partisanship and ideological affiliations rather than intellectual rigor. Everything needs to fit into well-worn grooves, into familiar categories, into pre-existing patterns. This in turn leads to an almost chronic unwillingness to revisit and refine long-held positions. Our thinking on matters of politics and philosophy and faith not only can become lazy; it can easily ossify. It may be worth asking yourself (and me asking myself): In the last 15-20 years, on what issues of importance have you changed your mind, re-calibrated your thinking, or even attempted to take a fresh look at? Or has every event, serious study, and new set of facts merely confirmed what you already knew? To put it another way: do you think you’ve ever been wrong?
I can think of several issues that I've changed my mind on: the appeal of democracy in the Middle East, the value of European unification, the need for some sort of path to citizenship for illegal immigrants are just some issues that come to mind. I wonder though what answer prominent politicians would give to those questions.

PJ Media has an entertaining list of the "10 Most Politically Incorrect Moments this TV Seaso" There were some startling moments as detailed in this list - check out Part One and Part Two.

Meanwhile, college students can learn from Jerry Seinfeld. Seinfeld commented on Colin Cowherd's show that he doesn't play colleges anymore because they are just too PC and take offense too easily.
If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can play Columbia, and Rand Paul can play Howard University, what keeps Jerry Seinfeld from going into far friendlier territory?

College students today are just too politically correct.

Worse, he says they don’t even understand the political things about which they are straining to be correct.

"They just want to use these words," he said. Like, "‘That’s racist;’ ‘That’s sexist;’ ‘That’s prejudice.’ They don’t know what the f-k they’re talking about."

He’s not alone. According to Cowherd, Larry the Cable Guy won’t play colleges, and Chris Rock has also said he doesn’t because everything there is taken as offensive....

Indeed, it must be jarring for a boomer like Seinfeld, who went to college in the early 70s, when students were debating real issues freely, to confront today’s college campuses, where students often invent issues about which to be aggrieved, many times on behalf of other parties, and then have to find "free speech zones" in which to discuss them....

In the past few years, Seinfeld’s confronted levels of political correctness that would have likely made his show an impossibility today. Last year, he was asked why the show featured so many white men and he responded, "People think [COMEDY]is the census or something, it’s got to represent the actual pie chart of America. Who cares?"

His boredom for these kinds of inquiries is palpable and understandable. The genius of the show, of course, was in Seinfeld and Larry David’s obsession with crossing the arbitrary and meaningless lines of "civil society" that demarcated what you were and were not supposed to say in polite company.

But imagine the hyperventilating headlines if "Seinfeld" aired fresh today:

Jerry ‘mansplains’ feminism to Elaine!

George's anti-Asian microaggressions!

Kramer stereotypes pimps!

Elaine slutshames braless friend!

Seinfeld’s distaste for college audiences is understandable, but lamentable. These are exactly the crowds who need to be shown how infantile their uninformed twitches at self-serious activism are.

But if "Seinfeld," the show, detested anything more than political correctness, it was altruism. As Jerry once said of the true spirit of Christmas, it’s "people being helped by people other than me."

So let’s hope someone else steps in to teach college students how to take themselves less seriously.

Evan Thomas, no Tea Partier, compares Hillary Clinton to Nixon in a WSJ column titled "Hillary Milhous Clinton." Gosh, that must anger the Clintonians. Any comparison to Nixon for a woman who got her start working to impeach Nixon must be especially galling.
The political shorthand to describe Hillary Clinton’s resentful, suspicious attitude toward the press is to say that she brings to mind Richard Nixon. Like Nixon, she sees enemies everywhere (and, like Nixon did, she does have a lot of enemies). Like Nixon, she is guarded and secretive. Nixon was, by his own description, an introvert in an extrovert’s business. Hillary is not painfully shy like Nixon, but she hardly comes across as a politician who loves people. Reporters who have long covered the Clintons note that while her gregarious husband Bill likes to be out working the crowd, Hillary prefers to stay holed up in the waiting room for as long as possible.

But the parallels between Mrs. Clinton and Nixon go well beyond antipathy for the media and awkwardness as campaigners....

We have now been watching Mrs. Clinton on the national stage for more than two decades, since at least 1992 when her husband first ran for president. If you think that past is prologue, there is every reason to believe that President Hillary Clinton would spend her presidency lashing out at her enemies as she ducks small scandals and possibly large ones. She would be aggrieved and dodgy. That is not to say that she would wind up like Nixon—threatened with impeachment and driven from office—but it does suggest how she would deal with the inevitable rocky times ahead.

We have now been watching Mrs. Clinton on the national stage for more than two decades, since at least 1992 when her husband first ran for president. If you think that past is prologue, there is every reason to believe that President Hillary Clinton would spend her presidency lashing out at her enemies as she ducks small scandals and possibly large ones. She would be aggrieved and dodgy. That is not to say that she would wind up like Nixon—threatened with impeachment and driven from office—but it does suggest how she would deal with the inevitable rocky times ahead....

A Hillary Clinton White House would also reflect her personality (and, probably, her husband’s). Mrs. Clinton has no doubt learned about crisis management and possibly how to avoid stupid mistakes during her years in and around government. But it is doubtful that her essential character has changed.

She will be easily aggrieved and suspicious about the media. She will be self-righteous about her own essential goodness. She will have a sharp temper, though she will tolerate her husband’s excesses. She will run an aggressive PR operation that will stonewall as long as possible.

With the hindsight of history, we can see that Nixon’s downfall was predictable. Actually, his personality flaws were well known before he was elected. So are Hillary’s.