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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Obama Says He Fundamentally Disagrees With Ryan\'s Vision for the Country


CHICAGO - President Obama addressed his rival's vice-presidential choice for the first time on Sunday, calling Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin a nice guy whose leadership would be a national disaster.

“Congressman Ryan is a decent man, he is a family man,” the president said, quieting boos from the audience, but also a spokesman “for a vision I fundamentally disagree with.”

Speaking to hundreds of young supporters at the second of five fund-raising events he is holding here Sunday, Mr. Obama wove Mr. Ryan seamlessly into the speech he has been making for months. In a sense, Mr. Ryan has made Mr. Obama's rhetorical job easy: for months, the president has argued that the election is a choice between two different paths for the country, and that the Romney/Ryan path of aggressive budget cutting and deregulation will lead to yet more economic suffering. So he dropped just a few words about Mr. Ryan into his address, describing the anxiety and insecurity he said Mr. Ryan's proposed policies would cause.

“It's not speculation, it's on their Web sites,” he said. “They have tried this before, they have tried to sell us this trickle down fairy dust before.”

Through an accident of timing, Mr. Obama finds himself back in the places that created his career - Chicago and Iowa - just as the fight to defend his presidency takes on new definition. Sunday's events provided a miniature snapshot of the president's fortunes at the moment. On the one hand, his central argument - that the election is a choice between two visions for the country - received a shot of rhetorical energy from Mitt Romney's selection of Mr. Ryan, who has argued for changes to Medicaid and Medicare as a way of cutting the deficit.

On the other hand, Mr. Obama is trailing in the money, and his Chicago “birthday” trip is a frenetic dash for cash, from the large, low-dollar event at the arts center to a party in his own backyard with a $40,000 admissions fee.

The Obama campaign does not release fund-raising tallies for individual events, but a simple series of numbers tells the story of their efforts to raise cash. The president and the first lady are dividing and conquering, with Mr. Obama in Chicago and the first lady covering the Rocky Mountains and California over the course of several days. Admission to the arts center event started at $51, a bargain price to see a sitting president up close. Though hundreds of young people showed up, and the Obama campaign declared the event sold out, the loftlike space looked about half full. Meanwhile, Mark Knoller of CBS, an unofficial archivist of the presidency, said he could not remember another occasion in which a sitting United States president held a fund-raiser in his own home.

The arts center event also provided an unplanned contrast with Saturday's scene at Mr. Romney's announcement. That took place on the decommissioned U.S.S. Wisconsin in Virginia, in front of what looked like a mostly white crowd. The Bridgeport Art Center sits on a barren block of Chicago's South Side, and Mr. Obama spoke front of a diverse, young audience.

Just outside, another reminder of the politics of Chicago's South Side was visible on the sidewalk. Members of Chicago's Occupy Wall Street group covered the pavement with chalked statements of protest: “Unhappy 51 to Obama,” the pastel message said. “Stop killing brown people with your drones.”

New Republican Ticket Keeps Focus on Obama\'s Record


MOORESVILLE, N.C. â€" Representative Paul Ryan slammed President Obama on his second day as Mitt Romney‘s running mate, telling an energized crowd in North Carolina Sunday that Mr. Obama had had his chance to fix the ailing economy but had failed.

“We've got a big job ahead of us,” Mr. Ryan told the crowd of a few thousands people at the NASCAR Technical Institute. “We can't keep letting this government spend money we don't have. We can't keep letting this government mortgage our children's future and we can't keep this government-centered society and government-run economy drive us into the ground in a state with unemployment like 9.4 percent in North Carolina.”

He said that President Obama came into office with promises of hope and change, and with Democrats controlling Congress passed his agenda of health care reform and stimulus, only to get a budget that doubled the debt.

Mr. Romney followed Mr. Ryan in addressing the crowd, telling them how delighted he was in having his ticketmate out on the trail with him, remarks that were greeted with chants of “Paul, Paul Paul” from the crowd.

“I am so happy I am so happy to have my teammate now, the two of us! It's now two on two you know,” Mr. Romney said.

“And this is a guy with extraordinary character,” Mr. Romney continued. “Grew up young cause his dad passed away young and has been a man of character and integrity and vision he's the kind of leader we need to have in Washington.”

“He hasn't spent all his time attacking people on the other side of the aisle,” Mr. Romney said of his running mate. “He's tried to find people among the Democrats that he can work with and try to make change that would help the American people. He recognizes that honest people can have honest differences.”

A Morning Spent Trying to Define Ryan


WASHINGTON - The Obama campaign wasted no time on Sunday in trying to paint Mitt Romney's newly announced running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, as an extreme politician who would destroy the Medicare program and deprive women of abortion rights.

“Congressman Ryan is a right-wing ideologue, and that is reflected in the positions that he's taken,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign.

“He is quite extreme - good, good person, you know, genial person - but his views are quite harsh,” Mr. Axelrod said on CNN's “State of the Union.”

Offering a critique that is expected to be central to the Obama team's argument, Mr. Axelrod said that Mr. Ryan's proposal to remake Medicare would allow private insurers to peel away the healthiest seniors, leaving the federal program covering the oldest and the sickest, sending costs soaring.

“Medicare itself will be in a death spiral,” Mr. Axelrod said, on ABC's “This Week.”

Republicans countered, saying that Medicare could not survive in its current form and that Mr. Romney, with his extensive business background, and Mr. Ryan, as an idea-generating chairman of the House Budget Committee, were the people to usher in needed change.

“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan agree and share a view that we need to make hard choices, and we need to save entitlement programs for future generations,” Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, said on CNN's “State of the Union.”

Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who had been seen as a top prospect as Mr. Romney's running mate, agreed. “I think the American people respect people who have real solutions to big problems,” including the need for Medicare reform.

Unlike President Obama, Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, and Mr. Ryan, “are actually willing to lead; they are actually willing to put meat on the bones.” Mr. Pawlenty said on ABC's “This Week.”

Mr. Pawlenty, who has been one of Mr. Romney's most loyal defenders since bowing out of the race for the presidential nomination, said that he was not disappointed at being passed over for the No. 2 spot.

“It's a great ticket, it's a terrific pick by Governor Romney,” Mr. Pawlenty said, adding that Mr. Ryan would bring energy and “an adult approach to solving the nation's problems.”

The fight over Medicare could prove crucial in battleground states like Florida that have large populations of seniors, and many Democrats said they were delighted to wage that fight.

But the president's party is also seizing on another Ryan position tha t it says said bolsters Democrats' efforts to portray the Republican ticket as unfriendly to women.

“He believes that we should ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest,” Mr. Axelrod said on ABC, referring to Mr. Ryan. “He is outside the mainstream.”

Mr. Ryan, a Roman Catholic, attended Mass at a church in North Carolina early on Sunday before joining Mr. Romney at an event in the town of Mooresville.

Romney and Ryan to Appear on \'60 Minutes\'


For their first joint television interview, Mitt Romney and Paul D. Ryan have picked the most popular news program on American television: “60 Minutes.”

The interview will be broadcast on Sunday evening on CBS, just a few hours after it is taped in High Point, N.C., the network said Sunday morning.

At the time of the network's announcement, the interviewer, Bob Schieffer, still had not arrived in North Carolina, underscoring the swiftness of the planned segment.

The same-day turnaround is highly unusual for “60 Minutes,” a newsmagazine that typically spends weeks and months crafting its segments. But it's logical for both the Romney campaign and for CBS. The campaign has an opportunity to reach tens of millions of viewers just one day after announcing the selection of Mr. Ryan as Mr. Romney's running mate, thereby creating another news peg for its rollout of what it has dubbed “America's Comeback Team.” And CBS, with “60 Minutes,” has the shelf space for the interview on its schedule.

The newsmagazine - which has higher ratings than any other news program on a weekly basis - is presently on summer vacation, and thus showing reruns each Sunday night. The interview will be subbed in. It will not take up the whole hour of the broadcast; the exact length of the segment will be determined after the interview is taped, a CBS spokesman said.

The Obama campaign similarly looked to “60 Minutes” as it announced Joe Biden as Mr. Obama's running mate in 2008. Steve Kroft, a correspondent for the newsmagazine, had the first joint interview with the two men, though that interview was conducted six days after the ann ouncement of Mr. Biden's selection.

Notably, it's not Mr. Kroft or another regular “60 Minutes” correspondent doing the interview this time. Instead, it's Mr. Schieffer, who is most closely associated with Sunday morning, not Sunday evening, as the host of “Face the Nation.” Mr. Schieffer, well-respected and affable among TV interviewers, last interviewed Mr. Romney in June.

Racial Profiling Charges Renew Questions About Counterterrorism Program


My Washington bureau colleagues Mike Schmidt and Eric Lichtblau wrote a revealing story Sunday on the charges of more than 30 Transportation Security Administration officers at Boston's Logan International Airport that a program intended to spot terrorists has instead degenerated into racial and ethnic profiling.

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It's an interesting exhibit for one question we are raising through The Agenda series, which looks at some big issues facing the country during the presidential campaign: Is all of the bulked-up counterterrorism machinery built after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks still critical to protect Americans from Al Qaeda and o ther violent extremists, or is it time to rethink and scale back?

Underlying the bad-news T.S.A. story is a piece of remarkable good news: There aren't very many terrorists trying to mount attacks in the United States, and the police and intelligence net strung across the country detects most of those who contemplate violence long before they are able to do so. This has been evident for years and is widely discussed by rank-and-file investigators.

But the understandably aggressive approach to any hint of another 9/11, including laws that boosted the power of government to pursue possible leads, sometimes has unintended consequences. Last year, Colin Moynihan and I wrote about a Texas anarchist-activist named Scott Crow whom the F.B.I. had tracked for years, justifying the surveillance in part on the grounds that Mr. Crow might be plotting violence. Agents sat in S.U.V.s outside his Austin house for days on end, writing reports on the unremarkable comings and go ings of Mr. Crow, his roommates and guests. They tracked his e-mails and phone calls, planted a video camera across from his home and combed through his trash but found nothing incriminating.

Such intrusive conduct on the part of government agencies is clearly part of the fallout from 9/11, which made many Americans more willing to put up with aggressive policing if it could prevent the next attack. But today, with an army of investigators assigned to hunt for terrorists, and few terrorists to be found, minority air travelers passing through Boston and non-terrorist activists like Mr. Crow arguably have become collateral damage.

- Racial Profiling Rife at Airport, U.S. Officers Say

Ryan Brings the Tea Party to the Ticket


For two years, Tea Party lawmakers in the House have been the stubborn barbarians at the gate, strong-arming their often reluctant Republican colleagues by refusing to compromise on spending, taxes, debt or social policy.

But Paul Ryan's ascendency to No. 2 spot on the Republican ticket is a signal event for a movement that firmly counts him as one of their own. If Mitt Romney wins in November, a Tea Party favorite will be a heartbeat from the Oval Office.

More than that, Mr. Ryan is unquestionably the face of the Tea Party caucus in Washington, and his success is certain to embolden House lawmakers whose proudly unyieilding approach to governing has contributed to legislative gridlock.

Once considered a fringe part of the conservative coalition, Tea Party lawmakers are now indisputably at the core of the modern Republican Party.

“Gov. Romney's selection of Congressman Paul Ryan is an excellent choice and a game changer for the presidential election,” said Representative Kevin Brady of Texas in a statement. “It's now a campaign of ideas on how best to get this economy moving again, balance the budget and restore America.”

He added: “My guess is that Barack Obama has a sick feeling in his stomach today.”

For Mitt Romney, the decision to pick Mr. Ryan has quickly helped to validate him in the eyes of skeptical Tea Party members in the House. Many in the movement had worried that a President Romney would hardly be an ally for their legislative goals.

Choosing Mr. Ryan eases those concerns even as it marks a shift in the movement's balance of power.

“Selecting someone like Paul Ryan, who is so popular with tea party activists, proves that Mitt Romney is committed to addressing the economic issues that have been troubling our nation for the last four years,” said Amy Kremer, the chairman of the Tea Party Expr ess, the movement's largest political action committee, in a statement Saturday.

In his speech accepting the role of Mr. Romney's running mate, Mr. Ryan touted his ability to reach across the aisle to find solutions that are workable to members of both parties.

“I have worked closely with Republicans as well as Democrats to advance an agenda of economic growth, fiscal discipline, and job creation,” Mr. Ryan said.

But Mr. Ryan's success may help to harden the political impasse in Washington between Democrats and Republicans, and between the House and the Senate. A huge post-election debate is looming over the fate of the Bush-era tax cuts and entitlement spending, and Mr. Ryan has been urging Tea Party members to stand firm.

If Republicans win the White House in the fall but fail to retake the Senate from Democrats, Tea Party members in the House may see even less reason to compromise on their drive to make the federal government smaller.

“ Congressman Ryan wants the same thing we do: to pass pro-growth policies and shrink the size and scope of government,” said Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth. “No one understands the dire consequences we face by continuing to ignore our spending problem better than Congressman Ryan, and no one can do a better job of articulating a vision of how to fix it.”

Within the Tea Party caucus, Mr. Ryan is not the most absolutist. He voted for the TARP bailout of big banks at the end of George W. Bush‘s term. And he voted for the bailout of the auto industry. Both actions are anathema to some Tea Party lawmakers. And in some ways, he is not the Tea Party archetype. A six-term congressman who has worked in Washington his entire career, Mr. Ryan is an insider-type politician who works from within the system, not against it.

But as chairman of the House budget committee, Mr. Ryan has resisted pressure from some of his party's leadership to compromise wit h Mr. Obama's administration in the interests of a grand bargain that many Tea Party members see as selling out.

And his far-reaching budget plans have attracted Tea Party support for the same reason that they have generated such fierce Democratic opposition: because they would go so far in reshaping the country's long-standing fiscal obligations.

Mr. Obama's campaign released a 90-second video attacking Mr. Ryan on Saturday. The video uses an old clip of the newly-minted vice presidential nominee bragging that “I put out a very comprehensive plan rewriting the health care system, Medicare, Social Security, our entire tax system.”

The Democrats intend that as an attack, but for Tea Party members it is their de facto mission statement.

Three years ago, the Tea Party movement blossomed as a way of protesting Mr. Obama's health care legislation. They followed up with a wave of political victories in the 2010 midterm elections that gave the movement a strong - if not always organized and coherent - voice in the Congress.

Now, Mr. Ryan's place on the national ticket testifies to the staying power of the Tea Party ideology and provides a single person around which the movement can coalesce. When he delivers his remarks at the Republican National Convention in Tampa later this month, Mr. Ryan will be speaking for the Tea Party as much as anyone else.

Tea Party activists are still likely to make some mischief at the convention, just as some of the movement's lawmakers in the House Republican caucus will no doubt find reasons to fault with Mr. Ryan.

But every movement needs someone to help it focus. For the Tea Party, Mr. Ryan appears to be that man.

Follow Michael D. Shear on Twitter at @shearm.

Romney Team Hints at More Openness on Ryan\'s Tax Records


DULLES, Va. - A top aide to Mitt Romney said that the campaign had obtained “several years” of income tax returns from potential running mates â€" suggesting that Representative Paul D. Ryan had produced tax returns for a greater number of years than Mr. Romney has in his run for the White House.

Mitt Romney has repeatedly refused to disclose tax returns for any years but 2010 and 2011, stirring criticism that he is shielding his finances from public view.

But on Saturday, the Romney adviser who oversaw the vice-presidential search, Beth Myers, said that she had requested “several years” of returns from Mr. Ryan. When pressed on precisely how many she had received, she declined to elaborate.

But her choice of words, however vague, was telling: she said “several,” not two, or a couple. (Technically, several refers to more than two.)

President Obama's re-election campaign has hammered Mr. Romney for not releasing enough of his tax returns, attempting to portray him as a calculating businessman set on hiding his wealth and tax rate. Because Mr. Romney earned much of his money through something known as carried interest â€" a form of return on investments â€" when at Bain Capital, he paid a lower tax rate than he might have had he worked in a different profession.

Mr. Romney has said that releasing two years of tax returns is plenty and that he is following a precedent set by presidential candidates like Senator John McCain in 2008.

Mr. Romney's own father, however, released 12 years of tax returns when he was considering a run for president in 1967. And in 2008, Mr. Romney himself gave Mr. McCain 23 years of his tax returns when being vetted as a possible running mate.