Steve Benen: Six of the major Republican presidential candidates stopped by Fox News on Saturday night to field questions from Mike Huckabee and some GOP state attorneys general. The exchanges weren’t terribly newsworthy, but something transpired behind the scenes that spoke to a larger trend.
Fox News allowed a New York Times reporter to roam around before, during, after the interviews, covering how the candidates and their teams operated. One campaign “stood out by going into defensive mode immediately, insisting that the reporter stay far away”:
….. Spotting the reporter, Mr. Romney’s aides sprang into action, questioning where he worked and what he was doing there, and then insisting that he not physically approach Mr. Romney before or after he was questioned on television … The request was reiterated to executives at Fox News.
Romney’s aversion to media professionals is making the transition from an oddity to a problem. Indeed, the political press will put up with quite a bit, but it really doesn’t like being ignored, and Romney has apparently invited a backlash.
11:10 The President meets with college presidents to discuss college affordability
USA Today: President Obama has invited the presidents of about 10 colleges and universities to a meeting at the White House on Monday to discuss affordability and productivity in higher education. While many White House events feature various presidents of colleges, a private meeting – called on short notice, with the president himself in attendance – is highly unusual.
The meeting, described as a roundtable discussion, will include Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, White House advisers, and a small group of college presidents and “thought leaders” in higher education, according to an invitation sent by the White House. A list of those invited has not been released.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Bill Clinton pose with the 2011 Kennedy Center Honorees, front row from left, Sonny Rollins, Barbara Cook, back row from left, Yo-Yo Ma, Meryl Streep and Neil Diamond at the State Department following a dinner and reception on Dec. 3
President Barack Obama will host the five recipients of the 34th Kennedy Center Honors at a White House reception before attending the evening gala at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
AP: When Mitt Romney and Rick Perry thumped their chests over their job-creation records as governor during the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, they left the bad parts out.
Yes, employment has grown by more than 1 million since Perry took office in Texas. But a lot of those jobs are not well paid.
True, unemployment dropped to 4.7 percent when Romney was Massachusetts governor. But the state’s employment growth was among the nation’s worst.
A look at some of the claims in the debate, and how they compare with the facts:
PERRY: “Ninety-five percent of all the jobs that we’ve created have been above minimum wage.”
THE FACTS: To support the claim, the Perry campaign provided federal statistics for December 2010 showing only 5.3 percent of all jobs in Texas pay the minimum wage.
But those figures represent all workers, not just the new jobs, for which data in unavailable. And that does not account for low-wage jobs that may be above the minimum wage. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, 51 percent of all Texas workers make less than $33,000 a year. Only 30 percent make more than $50,000 a year. Nationally, Texas ranked 34th in median household income from 2007 to 2009.
About 9.5 percent of Texas hourly workers, excluding those who are paid salaries, earn the minimum wage or less, tying Mississippi for the highest percentage in the nation.
ROMNEY: “At the end of four years, we had our unemployment rate down to 4.7 percent. That’s a record I think the president would like to see. As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this president has created in the entire country.”
THE FACTS: To be sure, 4.7 percent unemployment would be a welcome figure nationally. But Romney started from a much better position than President Barack Obama did. Unemployment was only 5.6 percent when Romney took office in 2003, meaning it came down by less than 1 percentage point when he left office in 2007. Obama inherited a national unemployment rate of 7.8 percent.
Steve Benen: ….Republican campaign strategist Ed Rollins, who recently joined Rep. Michele Bachmann’s team, defended the likely GOP presidential candidate’s credentials:
“…I think the key thing here is she – if she does become a candidate, which I think she will, she will have a good team around her and will basically make sure that everything is fact checked and obviously she’s smart, she’s on the intelligence committee, you know, so she can talk about a lot of different things.”
Republicans realize that being on the Intelligence Committee does not make someone intelligent, right? They know “intelligence,” in this committee context, relates to reviewing materials and documents related to national security, don’t they?
…..I still can’t bring myself to see Bachmann as anything but a joke who would struggle badly to compete nationwide. Her principal problem is, to put it gently, she’s stark raving mad. Even in a radicalized party … she stands out as one of Congress’ most loony-tunes members.
I won’t deny that this is likely to help Bachmann with many equally-unhinged Republican voters, but I also believe the party desperately wants to win in 2012. Even the most wild-eyed Tea Party fanatic understands, at a certain level, that the American mainstream is far more likely to laugh at Michele Bachmann than vote for her.
Regardless, she’s clearly running, and we’ll see soon enough whether the Republican base is really that far gone.