Archive for May, 2011

Lefty Blogs

Judge Napolitano Compares Providing Emergency Health Care To Theft And Slavery

The Judge is working hard to get off of Fox Business and onto Fox News Channel, because they have much better ratings, but he’s as charismatic as a soggy doughnut and as quacky as Glenn Beck. He’s been hammering away at not raising the debt ceiling for months now and he has the full stable of FN Pundits at his disposal.

Here’s his latest attack on our social safety nets, programs that we pay into by the way. He likes to quote the Founding Fathers quite a bit, but dismisses Presidents who saw American seniors dying in the streets and average Americans struggling to live with bad health before and after the stock market crash and were smart enough to do something about it. It took a while to do, but they’ve been tremendous for our society. The CapoNapo is making the argument that the US is stealing from you.

Napolitano Asks Why The US Should Provide Emergency Health Care, Compares It To Theft And Slaveryor won’t pay for it themselves, that’s slavery.

Napolitano: When the government forces hospitals and physicians to provide free health care for those who can’t. That’s why we have constitutionally chaos now. The government steals and enslaves and we outlawed that a long time ago.

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The Battle Over Medicare

Every once in a while, former President Bill Clinton hits one out of the park. This week we have the Big Dog to thank once more, for telling Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) he hopes Democrats don’t use their victory in a special election in NY-26 to do nothing on Medicare reform. Then he told Ryan to give him a call, which Ryan said he plans to do.

That race, to replace former Rep. Chris Lee (R), saw a Democratic victory in a GOP stronghold for more than four decades. The headline of the campaign was Ryan’s ambitious, controversial reform plan for Medicare, which would transform the popular program so that Medicare recipients would instead receive vouchers to purchase coverage in the private market.

The GOP candidate, Jane Corwin, stated her support for the Ryan plan, but when her opponent — Kathy Hochul — began hammering her for it, Corwin failed to find a compelling message for her support. According to Ryan, she never spoke with him about it. There was a third-party candidate in the race, but local polling shows the Medicare issue as a top concern that likely pushed Hochul over the top in the Buffalo district once represented by the late Jack Kemp.

House Republicans went ahead and approved Ryan’s bold Medicare plan as part of their annual budget in April, knowing the political dangers it would invite, as I explained in my column this week. They acknowledge the plan has no chance of passing the Senate and being signed into law but continue to support the plan and argue that such reforms should be on the table when the White House and Congress negotiate any increase in the debt ceiling. Republicans in the Senate, all but five of them, backed the plan on the Senate floor this week when it was voted down by Democrats.

The Ryan plan might be the wrong Medicare reform, but both parties need to work on some Medicare reform. The program will be broke in 13 years, and curbing its growth must be part of any meaningful deficit reduction. Clinton is right, the NY-26 victory for Democrats doesn’t take away the underlying problem. Let’s hope sensible policymakers like Ryan and Clinton can get something started before another election cycle drowns out hope for reform now.

Palin pressed on Medicare during bus tour stop

Mount Vernon, Virginia (CNN) – The politically charged battle over entitlement reform briefly interrupted Sarah Palin’s tightly scripted bus tour on Monday, when a tourist visiting George Washington’s historic home at Mount Vernon told Palin to “protect our Medicare.”

A middle-aged woman who said she worked in the health care industry approached Palin while she was signing autographs and posing for pictures with tourists at Mount Vernon, the second stop on Palin’s closely watched “One Nation” bus tour.

“I work in health care,” the woman announced. “Please protect our Medicare.”

Reporters covering Palin’s Mount Vernon visit were positioned too far away to hear the remark, but a CNN microphone picked up the audio.

It was not clear if Palin responded. She was swarmed by starstruck tourists and drawn in multiple directions, so it is possible she did not hear the comment.

The exchange comes as Republican presidential candidates like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty have been forced to answer for a controversial budget passed by House Republicans that would dramatically alter the popular health care program for seniors.

The cost-cutting budget, designed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, would replace Medicare with a voucher system that would let patients buy health insurance on the private market. Democrats, meanwhile, are accusing Republicans of trying to abolish the program.

Palin’s visit to Mount Vernon was her second bus tour stop of the day, before heading to Fort McHenry in Baltimore and the battlefield at Gettysburg.

Palin and her family were escorted through the Mount Vernon grounds by John Marshall, the manor’s designated tour guide for special guests. They entered the historic grounds on the “One Nation” bus – which features yellow Alaska license plates – through a back entrance.

The tour lasted about 45 minutes, according to a Mount Vernon official who guided members of the media to an outdoor position about 100 yards from the Washington home, where they could take photographs of the Palins.

Once in view of the press, Palin and her daughter Piper were seen listening to a handful of Mount Vernon employees in period dress.

Daughters Willow and Bristol walked ahead, while husband Todd lagged behind and chatted with John Coale, an informal adviser and the husband of Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren. A handful of staffers were also present.

Also joining Palin were her parents, Sally and Chuck Heath. Chuck Heath was wearing a purple T-shirt emblazoned with “ALASKA” and excitedly snapping photos.

The family posed for a portrait in front of the Washington home, and then shook hands and took pictures with the group of tourists. They also visited Washington’s tomb before departing.

GOP govs move ahead on health exchanges

Governors Scott Walker (left), Mitch Daniels (center) and Haley Barbour are shown. | AP Photos
A small but growing number of prominent, Republican governors — including Mitch Daniels and Haley Barbour — are taking the lead to shape a key component of the health care overhaul their party fought so hard to kill.It’s a delicate balancing act for Republicans who, on the one hand, oppose federal health reform, even challenging its constitutionality in federal court, and, on the other hand, are pragmatically trying to control as much of the implementation process as they can.
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In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels issued an executive order that allowed the state to become one of just three to receive a multimillion dollar grant to establish a health exchange, the online insurance marketplaces that all states must eventually have if the reform law stands up in court.

Wisconsin, under the leadership of Gov. Scott Walker, is one of six states to win an Early Innovator grant. While the grant was received under Walker’s predecessor, Gov. Jim Doyle, Walker has continued to use the resource, setting up the Office of Free Market Health Care that has prominently advertised its innovator status.

And in a weird twist of politics in Mississippi, state agencies of Gov. Haley Barbour have relied on little-used statutory authorities to set up an exchange, reviving a Democratic-sponsored effort to do so through the Mississippi State Legislature.

Daniels, Walker and Barbour are a stark contrast to Republican governors who are more stridently opposed to all aspects of health reform. Govs. Rick Scott of Florida, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Susana Martinez of New Mexico have come out in fierce opposition of any kind of implementation.

Scott and Jindal have also shunned federal money to plan their exchanges.

“The Rick Scotts of the world are probably going to be in the minority,” says one Republican health policy source, referring to the Florida governor’s halting health reform implementation. “The ones that block it fundamentally have a disagreement or it fits into a broader political calculus.”

Many strategists in D.C. contend that setting up the exchanges undermines Republicans’ constitutional challenges to the health reform law.

But having a handful of prominent Republican governors move forward on the issue — two of whom weighed presidential runs — suggests that the exchanges could emerge as one of the more palatable provisions of the contentious law.

And still other Republican governors, with smaller national profiles, have also endorsed implementing state-run health exchanges.They include Nevada’s Brian Sandoval, who is backing an exchange implementation bill in the Nevada State Legislature, Georgia’s Nathan Deal and Virginia’s Bob McDonnell.

“The big picture is that, while there’s an ideological divide, many governors see the exchange as an empty vessel they can shape in their own image,” says Ian Morrison, an independent health policy consultant in California. “Republican governors like the idea of more commercials insurance.”

Another crucial factor at play: If states don’t set up their own exchanges by 2014, the federal government will come in and do it for them.


ALEC – Government for the Corporations

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.  (Abraham Lincoln – The Gettysburg Address)

What is ALEC?
With nearly 2,000 members, ALEC is the nation’s largest
nonpartisan, individual membership association of state
legislators. Well over 100 ALEC members hold senior
leadership positions in their state legislatures. ALEC’s alumni
include almost 80 current members of Congress and sitting
or former governors.ALEC’s goal is to ensure that each of its legislative members
is fully armed with the information, research, and ideas they
need to be an ally of the free-market system.

Over the course of the past thirty-eight years The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporate sector members and the legislative active members and alumni members have successfully redefined our government as “government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations”.

Government of the corporations, by the corporations
While no corporations actively sit in our state and federal legislatures, these ALEC member corporations are faithfully represented in the state and federal legislatures by the over 2700 active and alumni members of ALEC.

At about this time, the state chairs of ALEC are sending out letters to legislators in your state, telling them that ALEC will reimburse them for up to $1,900 to attend the ALEC annual meeting to be held in New Orleans in August.

This $1,900 is donated by corporations to be spent on “tuition fees” to the annual meeting so that the corporations can be assured that they will be able to talk with our state legislators to influence corporate-focused legislation to be passed at our state legislatures.

The corporations that attend the ALEC meeting sit with our legislators, talk with our legislators, discuss new “Model Legislation” with our  legislators and VOTE on “Model legislation” that they want implemented in our government, as new legislation.

This is what ALEC refers to as a dynamic partnership in its latest corporate member brochure

One of ALEC’s greatest strengths is the public-private
partnership. ALEC provides the private sector with an
unparalleled opportunity to have its voice heard, and its
perspective appreciated, by the legislative members.

Unfortunately, for “we the people”, the representatives that we elected to office, who have chosen to become ALEC members no longer believe in representative government “of the people” – they now serve the corporations.

For a corporate donation of $1,900 per legislator, the corporations get our legislators undivided attention for up to four meetings every year – to write, vote on and approve – “Model Legislation” that promotes ALEC “free-market” philosophy – which is specifically written for the corporations.

Government for the corporations
It is important to remember that ALEC exists for the sole purpose of promoting a “free-market” philosophy.  Free market has absolutely NOTHING to do with representation “for the people” and has EVERYTHING to do with representation “for the corporations”.

Based on the research I have done on ALEC – the end result of all the “ALEC Model Legislation” is more profits for corporations and that’s all ALEC is concerned with – providing more business opportunties and/or more profit for their corporate sector members.  You and I, the citizens of this great country do not, repeat do not, have anything to do with their purpose and mission, unless, ALEC can use us to further corporate profits.

What does government “for the corporation” look like?  How are your legislators, who are ALEC members, providing corporations with more business opportunties and more corporate profits, at the expense of the rights of the people?  Well, let’s take a look at just a few examples.

ALEC believes that government services provide an unfair competitive advantage to private sector companies and because of that the government sector is a major impediment to the ability for private sector companies to make more profit.  ALEC’s  solution to this is legislation that promotes privatization of government services.  We see this in the news almost every day with the introduction of voucher systems to private schools, proposed voucher systems for Medicare, or legislation that promotes privatization of government services through the use of competitive bidding for government services.  These are ALL ALEC initiatives.

The problem with this model is that when you have private industry supplying government services, their customer is no longer you or me – the citizen who pays for those services.  When government services are privatized, the customer then becomes the government entity that contracted the service and you and I are left without a voice regarding government services provided to us – just ask the folks in Benton Harbor.  Private industry is not held responsible to “we the people”.

ALEC has been at the forefront of fighting for “de-regulation”. ANY type of regulation – labor, environmental, health is open game for ALEC.  The one and only reason ALEC so vehemently opposes health, labor and environmental regulations is because their corporate members see reduced profits due to regulations.  In 1997, the then National Chair of ALEC, Bonnie Cooper wrote a letter to ALEC members referring to these types of legislation as “heart-strings legislation” – “written as a result of an emotional appeal rather than sound reasoning”.

When deregulation is allowed to occur or when funding for these agencies is allowed to be reduced – who loses?  We the people.  Legislation by ALEC members at the state and federal level that focuses on corporate profit above the appeals of their citizenry – is just plain wrong!

Over the past thirty eight years we have assumed that our government was a representative “government of the people, by the people, for the people” we can no longer make that assumption.  Legislators at the state and federal level who are or have been ALEC members have changed all that.

It has become extremely clear to me over the last few months that the democratic leaders of this country and the news media want nothing to do with this issue.  They would rather spend hours talking about divorces and sex scandals, than spend more than 10 minutes exposing ALEC.

Because of that – this is our issue to handle.  This is our responsibility to clean up.
Action must be taken by “we the people.”

There is only one way that we can ensure that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”

Over the course of the next several elections, we MUST do everything we can to identify ALEC members at the state and federal level.  ALEC does not release their full membership list – they only release enough to keep the media off their back – We must identify every one of the over 2,700 legislative (state and federal) members.  See this diary and see this google doc

Once ALEC members have been identified, we MUST make sure that they are not re-elected in the upcoming elections.  The only way to stop this subversion of our democracy is to remove these representatives from office.  ALEC legislators are no longer representing the people – they are representing the corporations.

It is at times like this that remembering the past can be of benefit to us, to motivate us.

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

We must be

dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion

Since the time my grandparents immigrated to the United States, multiple family members of each successive generation have served in the US Forces.  I write this diary in their honor and in hopes that their service was not in vain.

If you don’t know what ALEC is you should –
please read this, or this, or this, or this, or this.

Originally posted to MNDem999 on Sun May 29, 2011 at 10:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by Exposing ALEC and Community Spotlight.

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Despite What Boehner Says, Republicans Have Voted To Cut Medicare, Repeatedly

The words “voted to” could come back to haunt House Speaker John Boehner.

In his weekly Capitol briefing with reporters Thursday, Boehner made an unmistakably false claim. “The only people in Washington, DC who have voted to cut Medicare have been the Democrats when they voted to cut $500 billion in Medicare during Obamacare,” he said. Given a chance to walk it back, Boehner’s spokesman did not.

Even if you leave out the key modifier “voted to” this is far from true. Both parties have actually “cut” Medicare many times over the years. Republicans in particular haven’t just voted for cuts, but passed legislation that presidents either signed or vetoed.

That happened repeatedly in the 1990s, as laid out in detail here. In late 1995 and early 1996, it precipitated a government shutdown. In 1997, it resulted in the Balanced Budget Act.

But if you leave the modifier in, this turns into a huge whopper.

Not only did Republicans vote aspirationally to cut Medicare — in both the near and short term, and by huge amounts — in their dead-on-arrival budget this year, they’ve arguably made cutting Medicare a hallmark of what it means to be a Republican.

Here’s a brief, incomplete recap of how that’s played out in recent years.

The House GOP budget — which an overwhelming majority of Republicans in both chambers voted for — would cut Medicare in the near-term by repealing the new health care law. That would re-open the prescription drug donut hole, and rescind new guaranteed wellness benefits for seniors. It would also maintain the health care law’s $500 billion Medicare cuts — principally over-payments to private insurers participating in Medicare advantage.

It would impose much, much larger cuts in the long term. Setting aside the privatization scheme, the government saves money under the plan principally by capping Medicare spending (the value of the subsidies to private insurers) and pegging that cap to inflation — way below the rate of growth of medical costs. That’s a cut no matter how you slice it.

They’ve been at this very plan for some time.

In 2009, 137 or their 178-member minority, including Boehner, voted for the Republican alternative budget, authored by — whom else — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). That budget will sound familiar. It “[p]reserves the current Medicare program for individuals 55 and older. For those under 55, the resolution gradually converts the current Medicare program into one in which Medicare beneficiaries receive a premium support payment — equivalent to 100 percent of the cost of the Medicare benefit — to purchase health coverage from a menu of Medicare-approved plans, similar to options available to members of Congress.”

The plan also reduced the prescription drug benefit for seniors with household incomes over $170,000

Despite the similarities to the current GOP budget, dozens of Republicans defected from this plan, including many members — like Dean Heller (R-NV) and Pete King (R-NY) to name two — who just walked the plank on the 2011 version.

In 2007, a similar story played out when 159 of their 202-member minority, including Boehner, voted for Ryan’s alternative. That version of his plan would have capped Medicare spending and cut it relative to the growth of health care costs, and would have imposed further means testing of the program. It didn’t lay out the precise privatization scheme included in the 2009 and 2011 Republican budgets, but it envisioned “a reform strategy that will advance the transformation of Medicare into a vital and flexible program that can meet its mission without imposing unmanageable burdens on the Nation’s medical community, and its economy.”

Republicans have been at this about as long as there’s been Medicare. But from time to time they make it obvious. In the 1990s, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed a milder version of the current Medicare phase out policy. His version would have preserved traditional Medicare as an option alongside a privatized program, and incentivized seniors to drop out of the government plan. Here’s how he famously described it in a speech to Blue Cross in 1996. “[W]e don’t get rid of it in round one because we don’t think that’s politically smart and we don’t think that’s the right way to go through a transition. But we believe it’s going to wither on the vine because we think people are going to voluntarily leave it.”

These votes were mostly about positioning. To the extent that they could succeed, they would have loved to, but the main ideas were to stake out bargaining stance, and draw a distinction between the GOP and the Democrats. But that’s precisely the point: if they had their way — if Congress was a parliament and Boehner was Prime Minister– this is what they would do.

How America Screws Its Soldiers

Everyone claims to “Support Our Troops.” But as Andrew J. Bacevich explains, telling the military it can do whatever it wants works for everyone—except for the soldiers themselves.

Riders on Boston subways and trolleys are accustomed to seeing placards that advertise research being conducted at the city’s many teaching hospitals. One that recently caught my eye, announcing an experimental “behavioral treatment,” posed this question to potential subjects: “Are you in the U.S. military or a veteran disturbed by terrible things you have experienced?”

Just below the question, someone had scrawled this riposte in blue ink: “Thank God for these Men and Women. USA all the way.”

Article - Bacevich Memorial Day Troops United States Marines place a colleague wounded in an IED strike into a waiting medevac helicopter in Helmand Province of southern Afghanistan, Friday, May 13, 2011. (Kevin Frayer / AP Photo)

Here on a 30 x 36 inch piece of cardboard was the distilled essence of the present-day relationship between the American people and their military. In the eyes of citizens, the American soldier has a dual identity: as hero but also as victim. As victims—Wounded Warriors —soldiers deserve the best care money can buy; hence, the emphasis being paid to issues like PTSD. As heroes, those who serve and sacrifice embody the virtues that underwrite American greatness. They therefore merit unstinting admiration.

Whatever practical meaning the slogan “support the troops” may possess, it lays here: in praise expressed for those choosing to wear the uniform, and in assistance made available to those who suffer as a consequence of that choice.

As the 10th anniversary of what we used to call the Global War on Terror approaches, a plausible, realistic blueprint for bringing that enterprise to a conclusion does not exist.

From the perspective of the American people, the principal attribute of this relationship is that it entails no real obligations or responsibilities. Face it: It costs us nothing yet enables us to feel good about ourselves. In an unmerited act of self-forgiveness, we thereby expunge the sin of the Vietnam era when opposition to an unpopular war found at least some Americans venting their unhappiness on the soldiers sent to fight it. The homeward-bound G.I. spat upon by spoiled and impudent student activists may be an urban legend, but the fiction persists and has long since trumped reality.

Today such egregious misbehavior has become unimaginable. Even if the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are not especially popular or successful, no one blames the troops. Instead we cheer them, pray for them, and let them go to the front of the line when passing through airport security. And we take considerable satisfaction in doing so.

From the perspective of those who engineer America’s wars, the principal attribute of this relationship is that it obviates any need for accountability. For nearly a decade now, popular willingness to “support the troops” has provided unlimited drawing rights on the United States Treasury.

Since 9/11, in waging its various campaigns, overt and covert, the United States military has expended hundreds of billions of (mostly borrowed) dollars. By the time the last invoice gets paid, the total will be in the trillions. Is the money being well spent? Are we getting good value? Is it possible that some of the largesse showered on U.S. forces trying to pacify Kandahar could be better put to use in helping to rebuild Cleveland? Given the existing terms of the civil-military relationship, even to pose such questions is unseemly. For politicians sending soldiers into battle, generals presiding over long, drawn-out, inconclusive campaigns, and contractors reaping large profits as a consequence, this war-comes-first mentality is exceedingly agreeable.

One wonders how many of those serving in the ranks are taken in by this fraud. The relationship between American people and their military—we love you; do whatever you want—seems to work for everyone. Everyone, that is, except soldiers themselves. They face the prospect of war without foreseeable end.

Americans once believed war to be a great evil. Whenever possible, war was to be avoided. When circumstances made war unavoidable, Americans wanted peace swiftly restored.

Present-day Americans, few of them directly affected by events in Iraq or Afghanistan, find war tolerable. They accept it. Since 9/11, war has become normalcy. Peace has become an entirely theoretical construct. A report of G.I.s getting shot at, maimed, or killed is no longer something the average American gets exercised about. Rest assured that no such reports will interfere with plans for the long weekend that Memorial Day makes possible.

Members of the civil-military-corporate elite find war more than tolerable. Within its ranks, as Chris Hedges has noted, war imparts meaning and excitement to life. It serves as a medium through which ambitions are fulfilled and power is accrued and exercised. In Washington, the benefits offered by war’s continuation easily outweigh any benefits to be gained by ending war. So why bother to try?

As the 10th anniversary of what Americans once called their Global War on Terror approaches, a plausible, realistic blueprint for bringing that enterprise to a conclusion does not exist. Those who might once have felt some responsibility for articulating such a plan—the president, his chief lieutenants, senior military leaders—no longer feel any obligation to do so. As a practical matter, they devote themselves to war’s perpetuation, closing one front while opening another. More strikingly still, we the people allow our leaders to evade this basic responsibility to articulate a plan for peace. By implication, we endorse the unspoken assumption that peace has become implausible.

Here at last we come to the dirty little secret that underlines all the chatter about “supporting the troops.” The people in charge don’t really believe that the burdens borne by our soldiers will ever end and they are not really looking for ways to do so. As for the rest of us, well, we’re OK with that.

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University.

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Romney bets his candidacy on the economy

By Dan Balz, Published: May 28

BOSTON — Republican Mitt Romney will formally launch his second campaign for the White House on Thursday with an operation leaner and wiser than it was four years ago and a message singularly focused on what he sees as President Obama’s greatest area of vulnerability: jobs and the economy.

Romney and his advisers are working backward from November 2012. They believe that the economy will decide the outcome of the election and that the president has yet to convince voters that his economic policies have worked. They argue that Romney’s long experience in the private sector — his tenure as an elected official was just four years — makes him the Republican best positioned to challenge the president on how to fix what’s wrong.

“This election is going to be a referendum on President Obama and his handling of the economy,” said campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom. “He didn’t cause the economic recession, but his policies have prolonged it and deepened it in some respects. We wondered what it would be like to elect a president who has no experience. Now we know.”

Democrats dispute all that and say Romney’s vulnerabilities on economic issues are far greater than the president’s. “The president made the hard choices, exercised sound judgment, and his policies are helping American industry give people jobs again,” said Democratic National Committee press secretary Hari Sevugan. “Mitt Romney made no choices, exercised bad judgment and has a record of helping big business take jobs away.”

Still, the president’s team has already shown it takes Romney’s candidacy seriously. The first video ad aired by a newly formed independent group that is run by two former White House officials targeted Romney.

When Chrysler paid back its government loan last week, a success for the president, the DNC blasted Romney for having opposed the auto bailout. Romney’s camp responded that he had favored a managed bankruptcy — a course they claim Obama eventually pursued. The argument is surely the first of many to come between the two camps.

The former Massachusetts governor begins as the front-runner for his party’s nomination, but hardly a prohibitive favorite. He narrowly leads the field in the latest Gallup poll, but the Gallup organization also called him “the weakest front-runner in any recent Republican nomination campaign.” He will be severely tested by his GOP rivals, who will all begin to target him.

Romney’s goal, according to advisers, is to keep his eyes on the bigger prize and to run his own race, not one dictated by the other GOP candidates or by the round-the-clock media culture. His hope is to convince Republican voters that, whatever flaws they may see in him, he is still the strongest candidate for the general election.

A series of interviews with Romney’s top advisers reinforced that message. “The economy is not just a talking point,” said campaign manager Matt Rhoades. “It’s the real deal. He [Obama] took his eye off the ball, doing all these other things. People are hurting out there. He’s the boss.”


For Palin, a Short Ride With Lots of Rumbling

Sarah Palin made a grand entrance at the Rolling Thunder biker rally on Sunday, wearing a black Harley-Davidson helmet and visibly enjoying herself as a crush of reporters and bikers swarmed her motorcycle.

Ms. Palin, the former governor of Alaska, was joined by her husband, Todd, who was wearing a matching helmet, and her daughters, Bristol and Piper. Their arrival at the Pentagon North parking lot turned the lazy Sunday morning into a celebrity affair.

Ms. Palin climbed aboard a chopper, assisted by a member of the Rolling Thunder staff, but was unable to move because there were so many members of the press snapping photos. Organizers eventually brought in police, also on motorcycles, to clear a path.

After moving just a few feet, Ms. Palin got off the bike to sign autographs and talk with the crowd. At one point she could be heard discussing “the missing,” a reference to the soldiers still missing in action — a key part of the Rolling Thunder cause.

Sarah Palin at the

Sarah Palinmade a grand entrance at the Rolling Thunder biker rally on Sunday, wearing a black Harley-Davidson helmet and visibly enjoying herself as a crush of reporters and bikers swarmed her motorcycle.

Ms. Palin, the former governor of Alaska, was joined by her husband, Todd, who was wearing a matching helmet, and her daughters, Bristol and Piper. Their arrival at the Pentagon North parking lot turned the lazy Sunday morning into a celebrity affair.

Ms. Palin climbed aboard a chopper, assisted by a member of the Rolling Thunder staff, but was unable to move because there were so many members of the press snapping photos. Organizers eventually brought in police, also on motorcycles, to clear a path.

After moving just a few feet, Ms. Palin got off the bike to sign autographs and talk with the crowd. At one point she could be heard discussing “the missing,” a reference to the soldiers still missing in action — a key part of the Rolling Thunder cause.

Sarah Palin at the