Political Animal


October 29, 2012 4:27 PM A Very Low Register

By Ed Kilgore

There’s lots and lots of gabbing today over the Des Moines Register’s endorsement of Mitt Romney. It’s the paper’s first Republican presidential endorsement since Nixon (fitting), though it’s worth remembering that this is not the same independent locally-owned paper it used to be since it was sold to the Gannett chain in 1985. And while the Register is probably more influential than most daily newspapers outside the big national newspapers-of-record, its circulation has been steadily declining like all other print media, and in the kind of election we are in, with the kind of electorate Iowa has, I would not confidently predict the endorsement will matter at all.

But what I really want to say is this: Lord-a-mercy, what a thoroughly dumb, phoned-in endorsement statement! And this from a paper that is forever congratulating itself for its wonky thoughtfulness! Not today!

You can read it all, but aside from a hum-ho account of Obama’s lack of a second-term agenda (with zero suggestions of what that might be other than protecting his first-term accomplishments and the entire economy from demolition), the Register’s “positive” case for Romney seems to be that he was relentlessly lying throughout the primary season, and harbors some “fresh thinking” on the economy that is never identified. Check this out:

One of the biggest obstacles either candidate faces is partisan gridlock in Congress. It appears unlikely either party will have enough votes to have its own way without bringing over members from across the aisle….
Romney could be assured that Democrats would work to defeat him as hard as Republicans worked against Obama is if he were to adopt the reactionary agenda of the most extreme elements of the Republican Party. Romney had to tack to the right during the primary season. Since then, he has recalibrated his campaign to focus on his concern for the middle class, and that is believable if the real Mitt Romney is the one on display as governor of Massachusetts who passed a health care reform plan that became the model for the one passed by Congress.
Romney should not squander an opportunity to build consensus in Washington by wasting time on issues that animate many in his party. We cannot rewind the clock on progress for minorities, women, gays and lesbians. We must make it easier for immigrants to come here to live and work legally and stop making criminals of those who are living here lawfully, paying taxes and raising families. The federal government must continue to insist on clean air and water and encourage clean and renewable energy.

So the Register endorsed Romney by assuming that he will repudiate virtually everything he’s said since 2007, other than the vague promises of bipartisanship he started making a few weeks ago. (And by the way, in assuming Romney will have to be “bipartisan,” the paper’s brain trust seems to betray complete ignorance of the budget reconciliation procedure that will enable Republicans to enact the most sweeping package of legislation since at least Ronald Reagan on a strict party-line vote if the GOP gets control of the Senate, which remains entirely possible).

But the Register’s bizarre confidence in Romney’s “bipartisanship” is more than rivaled by its appreciation of Mitt’s “fresh thinking” on the economy:

Throughout the campaign, he has expressed faith in the private sector to fuel a more robust economic recovery if it has more confidence that the federal government will not be an obstacle. Romney has a strategy for job growth through tax and regulatory relief for small businesses, encouraging all forms of domestic energy production, education that prepares graduates with job skills, expanding foreign trade and reducing the burden of federal deficits.
That formula, coupled with his business acumen, should unlock this nation’s economic potential.

“That formula,” of course, is about as “fresh” as Todd Akin’s thinking about rape. It’s a more right-wing version of the same “formula” of all those GOP candidates the Register declined to endorse over the decades.

There is an internally consistent and coherent case to be made for Romney’s election, even though I would disagree with it profoundly. There’s no hint of it in the Register’s endorsement, which makes the most detached low-information voter seem exceptionally well-versed on the choice facing voters. This editorial board has reached an unbelievably low register on any scale for intelligence and honesty, much less wonkiness. It should embarrass actual conservatives.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Th on October 29, 2012 4:35 PM:

    Shorter Register: The Republicans tried to block every proposal from Obama on purely partisan grounds so we need to elect Romney so he can work with the Republicans.

    Thanks for helping destroy our country, Register editorial board.

  • T2 on October 29, 2012 4:41 PM:

    "We cannot rewind the clock on progress for minorities, women, gays and lesbians. We must make it easier for immigrants ......... insist on clean air and water and encourage clean and renewable energy."

    WHERE is this place? Des Moines, Jupiter. Have these 'editors' watched or read one minute of the Romney campaign?
    The funny thing is this endorsement is virtually a direct opposite of the Salt Lake City Tribune's (as in Utah) endorsement of Barack Obama. The Tribune called out Romney for just the kind of deceit that the Register is apparently banking on Romney tossing aside. Dreamers. Fools.

  • c u n d gulag on October 29, 2012 4:46 PM:

    Look, Gannett has an agenda. A Conservative agenda.

    Here in upstate NY, back in the 70's, the Poughkeepsie Journal was a very good newspaper.
    And then, Gannett bought them out. Since then, we call it the Poughkeepsie Urinal.

    I can't tell you how bad that paper is nowaday's.
    I wouldn't wrap a dead fish in it, because it would be an insult to the intelligence of the poor, dead fish.

    And it would scare the crap back INTO the parrot!

  • Doug on October 29, 2012 4:47 PM:

    A "low information" editorial for low information voters?

  • Anonymous on October 29, 2012 4:51 PM:

    "It should embarrass actual conservatives."

    Conservatives never feel embarrassment, Ed. It's not in their repertoire.

  • G.Kerby on October 29, 2012 4:53 PM:

    Gannett has turned the once-proud Detroit Free Press into a bad joke, too. It's now the Free-Press-A-Today.

  • Cherokee on October 29, 2012 4:55 PM:

    I grew up in Iowa, and I was always proud of the Register. They were everything a newspaper should be - honest, loudly provincial (they would move heaven and earth to find an Iowa connection for anyone in the news), and they were unafraid to take on the moneyed interests who wanted to use government for their own enrichment.

    Then, as you say, the owners sold out to Gannett, and things have been downhill ever since.

    The naivete of this endorsement is astounding - for the first time in my life I'm truly embarrassed that I loved the Register so much.

  • MuddyLee on October 29, 2012 5:07 PM:

    So it was Nixon first,now Romney - how did that Nixon endorsement work out, Register? Gannett sounds like a bad joke excuse for a newspaper/media company. You don't have to think Obama is great, to KNOW Romney would be a terrible president. AND, what about the McConnell-Cantor-Boehner 24/7 obstruction program that started on Obama's inauguration day? How can the press/media let them get away with nearly treasonous sabotage of the economy just to try to limit President Obama to one term? The only bipartisanship you will see if Romney is elected is that defined by ultra conservatives in Congress - they won't let Romney get away with anything that isn't already something that Ayn Randers like Paul Ryan have espoused. Goodbye New Deal - hello Screw Deal.

  • NJPM on October 29, 2012 5:26 PM:

    I have worked in the newspaper business and would be willing to bet a not-insignificant sum (but less than $10,000) that this was a case of the publisher overruling the editorial board. That happens a lot and it's the publisher's right. Here's the telling line: "The Register’s editorial board, as it should, had a vigorous debate over this endorsement." And it's followed by a tepid and shallow set of "reasons" to favor Romney.

  • Mitch on October 29, 2012 5:34 PM:

    "One of the biggest obstacles either candidate faces is partisan gridlock in Congress."

    Conservatives are counting on the fact that the Democratic Party loves the country much more than the GOP, and they are boasting about it. The GOP will do anything to destroy their "enemies" across the aisle; they do not care what kind of damage they do to the nation or their world. The Dems will negotiate with the GOP, and give the Repugs what they want, as long as something—anything—is being done to help improve the lives of our fellow citizens.

    This is by no means a swipe at the Dems. Politics is the art of compromise, and therein lies a key difference between our two major parties. The Dems are politicians, who generally try to do their jobs and serve this nation. The Repugs are ideologues who appear to lack all sense of responsibility, integrity and empathy.

    Conservatives and their media supporters seem to be acknowledging this dissonance. Lately I've been hearing a lot of statements that boil down to, "Dems will work with Romney, but the GOP will not work with Obama. So if we want the government to do anything, vote for Romney and hope that he's 'moderate' and not under the thumb of right-wing zealots."

    Unfortunately, the GOP of today is extreme to the point of madness. Even if Mitt were "moderate" he could not hope to stand up against the united force of his own party. And, of course, Mitt is not "moderate" at all—he is apparently nothing at all. He is an empty vessel, a cipher, who will say whatever his audience wants to hear. Anyone who could believe otherwise seems rather foolish to me.

  • Peter C on October 29, 2012 5:45 PM:

    Republicans these days don't even work with Democrats when Democrats have a majority. It takes a special kind of idiot to think they'll work with Democrats when Democrats are in the minority. Get real! They'll shut off our mikes and make us meet in the basement again.

  • mudwall jackson on October 29, 2012 6:01 PM:

    "The naivete of this endorsement is astounding ..."

    naivete, intellectual smugness, whatever you want to call it but there is a certain segment of moderates who think they know the real romney, and that the real romney is just like them. if he's elected, they'll find just how wrong they are.

    romney doesn't have the moral courage to oppose the right, even if he wanted to.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on October 29, 2012 6:03 PM:

    If you want to see a lame beyond belief endorsement, check this out from the Louisville Courier-Journal.


    It's nauseating.

  • schtick on October 29, 2012 6:05 PM:

    Gannett bought out our paper, too. It's now a suckhole for the teapubs.

  • David Carlton on October 29, 2012 6:42 PM:

    Hmmmmm--This reminds me of nothing so much as the *Tennessean's* endorsement of Romney last week, which was not only jaw-dropping in its inanity, it was inance in pretty much the same way. DisgustedWithItAll, is the same true of the once-great Courier-Journal? All three are now Gannett papers--which suggests to me that the "phoning in" may have been from Tyson's Corner--with cosmetic local tailoring.

  • KarenJG on October 29, 2012 7:30 PM:

    Mitch, I'm with you. It makes my blood boil to think that Repugs will not only get away with their treason, they might even get rewarded for it. I just can't decide who I'm most angry with - the pugs, or the dumbf*cks who vote for them...

  • Neil B on October 29, 2012 7:58 PM:

    I guess I might as well point out the obvious angle, which is to ask who owns this rag, and figure that a complete hack like Romney would be better for their bottom line.

  • Leopold von Ranke on October 29, 2012 8:34 PM:

    Don't think anyone who actually lives in Iowa has paid any attention to the Register in years, at least since Geneva Overholser left as editor. I cancelled my subscription when the parakeet died. Iowa is basically strong R in the western part of the state (aka Outer Nebraska) and strong D in the east. Nobody pays much attention to the rag published in the center of the state.

  • beejeez on October 29, 2012 8:54 PM:

    I'm a former newsman who can back up NJPM's point. Indeed, unless it's proven otherwise, readers should assume that their newspaper's presidential endorsements, if not all its major endorsements and opinions, are handed down from the publisher. Publishers who are too busy, too lazy or too lousy a writer (as well as too unprincipled to sign the editorial themselves) always have the option of ordering an unwilling underling to do the job. And sometimes the writer leaves a few clues that his heart ain't in it.

  • Mary in Des Moines on October 29, 2012 9:27 PM:

    Many of us here in Iowa were astounded at the Register's endorsement. It made no sense with their previous editorial support of gay marriage, immigrant reform, abortion rights, and many other things Romney opposes. The most galling was to favor Romney because of the obstructionism of the GOP House. Since when is bad behavior rewarded?

  • Rick B on October 29, 2012 9:29 PM:

    Ed, this endorsement with all its internal contradictions is just more proof that this is not an election between two groups of self-interested rational voters. Instead it is an emotional scream from a large group of people who feel that the world they believe they rightfully dominated has been stolen from them and they want it back, in all its rural bucolic splendor.

    To get that world back they'll hand power to any liar who tells them what they want to hear. The mild lies that might have been somewhat rational were proven false long ago. Now only the radical Gingriches and Caines will suit them, and Romney has discarded all consistency and rationality to try to fill the role of Liar-in-Chief.

    The frightened conservatives are being driven by big money who consist of people who have gotten rich by inheritance and by defrauding the government. The wealthy are the same kinds of self-serving aristocrats as were described by Robert Michaels in his Iron Law of Oligarchy. Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers are great examples. They would fit perfectly in the French Aristocracy that was overthrown in the French Revolution.

    As Bob Altermeyer said in his excellent on line book The Authoritarians you have to analyze the leaders separately from the followers. This is not an election between two rational political parties who want power for rational reasons. This is an election between self-centered oligarchs who are sucking the American economy dry and leaving only the husk for the majority of Americans and their frightened irrational minions against the somewhat more rational majority of the working people who created modern America.

  • Rich on October 29, 2012 9:32 PM:

    The GOPers and their media enablers/pals are pretty desperate if this is what they think is significant. They haven't seized on WaPo's tepid endorsement of Obama, but then WaPo is part of their orbit with its op-ed page filled with gezzer wingnuts and jennifer Rubin's volunteer work for Romney

  • bob h on October 30, 2012 10:24 AM:

    Endorse him for "jobs" when unemployment in your state is practically nonexistent.