Michigan Republicans Promote Election Rigging Scheme

Michigan wound up with far right Republicans in control of state government during the GOP sweep of 2010. This has led to problems including passing a so-called “right to work” law, attempts to restrict reproductive rights, and state government attempting to ignore the will of the voters in legalization of medical marijuana. While most states have given up on the idea of trying to rig elections,  many Michigan Republicans are still pushing for this:

Republicans handed Bobby Schostak another two-year term as state chairman Saturday and overwhelmingly endorsed a plan to change Michigan presidential electoral vote rules in a way opponents charge is intended to distort election results in favor of GOP candidates.

By a 1,370-132 margin at the party convention in Lansing, GOP members approved a resolution backing a proposal from Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, to divvy-up 14 of the state’s 16 electoral votes according to which candidate got the most votes in each congressional district. The other two would go to the state-wide vote total winner.

That switch from a winner-take-all formula that has been in effect 175 years could water down the dominance Democrats have had in Michigan in presidential elections for the last 24 years.

Critics say the plan would have given Mitt Romney nine of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes last year, although he lost by more than 500,00 votes to President Barack Obama state-wide. With the win, Obama captured all 16 Michigan electoral votes.

Lund introduced a bill to make the revision last year but it was unsuccessful. Hesaid he intends to reintroduce it in 2013, but leaders of the Republican majorities in both legislative chambers haven’t publicly announced a position on it.

Governor Rick Snyder, who is more moderate than most of the Republican elected in 2010, is not currently supporting this proposal. However, Snyder has often given in to the radical right, such as in reversing his position and signing “right to work” legislation in late 2012.

The current winner take all system in effect in all but two states might sound undemocratic, but provides results far closer to the national popular vote than allocating electoral votes by Congressional district. Under the current system, the winner of the popular vote has won the vast majority of elections. The 2000 election provided a notable exception with Al Gore winning the popular vote but George Bush winning the electoral vote. Reviews of the results in Florida afterwards did show that Gore would have won Florida (and therefore the election) if there was a state-wide recount, but not in the more limited recounts sought by Gore which were ultimately shut down by the Supreme Court.

There are two problems with the Republican proposal to allocate electoral votes based upon Congressional districts. Republicans hold a larger number of Congressional districts than they should receive based upon numbers of votes for each party due to gerrymandering. Even if not for gerrymandering, the concentration of Democratic voters in cities compared to the more rural Republican voters would result in Democrats controlling a smaller number of Congressional districts–winning by larger margins in cities than Republicans would win in other areas.

While is is preferable that the winner of the popular vote becomes president, allocating electoral votes by state helps to level out these issues and provides a result far closer to the popular vote than the Republican proposal would. Of course the Republican proponents realize this and prefer rigging elections to providing a platform which more voters would support. Even many Republicans oppose this. Hopefully some oppose this in support of democracy. Other motivating factors for some Republicans is the hope that they can carry an entire state and receive all of its electoral votes in the future, and fear of their state becoming less meaningful to candidates and receiving less attention during elections.

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Michigan Court Decision Restricts Access To Medical Marijuana

While Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has come under well-deserved national criticism for giving into the right wing recently, Michigan elected far more dangerous conservatives in 2010. This includes Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has been working to undermine the medical marijuana laws passed by Michigan voters. Schuette received a huge boost in his efforts from a Michigan Supreme Court decision:

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday the state’s medical marijuana law makes dispensaries illegal, throwing owners and patients into panicked uncertainty.

State officials said the justices’ 4-1 decision goes into “immediate effect” and could mean legal action against dispensaries that don’t close.

“It’s really up in the air at this point as to whether we’ll open tomorrow or not,” said Jamie Lowell, a co-founder of 3rd Coast Compassion Center in Ypsilanti, on Friday. “We’re still evaluating the decision with our attorneys. What it comes down to is whether we have any protections or defenses in the event we decide to continue helping people.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who joined the Isabella County prosecutor in a suit seeking the closure of another dispensary as a public nuisance, offered this interpretation of the ruling:

“Today, Michigan’s highest court clarified that this law is narrowly focused to help the seriously ill, not an open door to unrestricted marijuana sales,” he said in a statement Friday. “Dispensaries will have to close their doors. Sales or transfers between patients or between caregivers and patients other than their own are not permitted under the Medical Marihuana Act.”

This interpretation of the law provides very limited access to medical marijuana:

According to the ruling, the only legal sales of medical marijuana in Michigan are those specifically allowed in the state act. It states that as many as five state-approved users may register with a single state-approved caregiver, who then becomes a long-term provider of the drug — but only to those five users.

There is a bill in the Michigan legislature to legalize dispensaries, but for now it is doubtful the current dispensaries will be able to remain open without facing  prosecution. Schuette has been working to prevent the use of medical marijuana since taking office and I’m sure he will be able to find additional means to harass users regardless of whether dispensaries are legalized.

The best solution is to prevent any legal harassment of those who desire to use marijuana for medical purposes is to end attempts at prohibition and totally remove prosecutors from the issue by either legalizing or at least decriminalizing marijuana. The California Medical Association has previously called for legalization of marijuana with current laws creating an untenable situation.

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Rick Snyder’s Support Plummets After Signing Right To Work Law

In 2010 it was clear that Republicans would dominate the off-year elections due to the state of the economy and the national pro-Republican wave. Rick Snyder won the Republican nomination due to a combination of more conservative Republicans splitting the far right wing vote and Democrats crossing over to back Snyder as the lesser evil. By positioning himself as a moderate, Snyder had a good chance at getting re-elected in 2014. The problem with a moderate Republican governor is that he is still a Republican, and therefore will not veto extreme acts from the Republican legislature as regularly as a Democrat would. Signing the right to work legislation which the Republican legislature rammed through has cost Snyder a tremendous amount of support. From Public Policy Polling:

Snyder’s popularity plummets

Just last month when we took a first look at the 2014 landscape we talked about how much Rick Snyder had improved his popularity during his second year in office and how he led a generic Democrat for reelection by 6 points, even as Barack Obama won the state comfortably.

Last week he threw all that out the window.

We now find Snyder as one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. Only 38% of voters approve of him to 56% who disapprove. There are only 2 other sitting Governors we’ve polled on who have a worse net approval rating than Snyder’s -18. He’s dropped a net 28 points from our last poll on him, the weekend before the election, when he was at a +10 spread (47/37).

There’s not much doubt that it’s the right to work law and his embrace of other actions by the Republican legislature that are driving this precipitous drop in Snyder’s popularity. Only 41% of voters in the state support the right to work legislation, while 51% are opposed to it. If voters got to decide the issue directly only 40% of them say they would vote to keep the law enacted, while 49% would vote to overturn it. This comes on the heels of voters overturning Snyder’s signature emergency managers law last month. The simple reality is that Michigan voters like unions- 52% have a favorable opinion of them to only 33% with a negative one.

Snyder trails every Democrat we tested against him in a hypothetical match up. He’s down 49/38 to 2010 opponent Virg Bernero, 47/39 to Congressman Gary Peters, 46/38 to State Senator Gretchen Whitmer, and 44/39 to former Congressman Mark Schauer. The Bernero numbers are what’s most striking there. Snyder defeated Bernero by 18 points in 2010, so Bernero’s 11 point advantage represents a 29 point reversal. The Democrats all lead Snyder despite having very little name recognition- only 44% of voters are familiar with Bernero, 36% with Peters, 28% with Schauer, and 27% with Whitmer.

The Republicans in the legislature are even more unpopular than Snyder after their spate of last minute legislation…

Besides objection to the right to work legislation, many Michigan voters are also upset with the manner in which the legislation was pushed through.

Despite Snyder’s mistake in signing the right to work legislation, he is still far preferable to the other Republican choices who were available in 2010 such as Tea Party supporter Pete Hoekstra. At least Snyder will occasionally veto the most extreme Republican-passed legislation. Besides the right to work legislation which received national attention, the Michigan legislature has also pushed through other far right wing legislation.  After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Snyder reconsidered a bill passed by the legislature to allow concealed weapons in schools and vetoed it. We know that many more extreme Republicans would have praised the idea with a warped view that having more guns in school would make children safer. While less likely, hopefully he will also veto legislation intended to reduce access to abortions.

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Now Waiting For All The New Jobs In Michigan

Michigan has passed so-called right to work legislation today. There’s already been a lot written about how right-to-work states wind up with lower wages for workers, which doesn’t sound like a good thing for the economy unless you are in the right wing bubble. I’m more interested in seeing data on the other question–whether right-to-work laws are really of any benefit to a state in terms of bringing in new jobs. Governor Rick Snyder says this is the case, playing the role of ventriloquist’s doll to the Koch brothers. Think Progress says this is false:

… the economic research isn’t on Snyder’s side. As Adam Hersh, Heather Boushey, and David Madland note:

“There is really no economic evidence showing “right-to-work” laws leading to more jobs or better outcomes for workers. This is seen plainly in analysis looking at the impact of such laws in Oklahoma, the only other state to adopt a right-to-work law in the past 25 years prior to Indiana doing so in 2011 and Michigan’s current legislative move. In fact, economists Sylvia Allegretto and Gordon Lafer of the University of California, Berkeley and University of Oregon, respectively, show that since Oklahoma’s law passed in 2001, manufacturing employment and business relocations to the state actually reversed their “pre-right-to-work” increases and began to fall—and this at a time when Oklahoma’s extractive industry economies were booming. To the contrary, these researchers show that right-to-work laws have failed to increase employment growth in the 22 states that have adopted them.”

Instead, right-to-work laws simply result in lower wages and fewer benefits for workers, union and non-union alike. In Michigan (and across the country), as unionization rates fall, so does middle-class income. President Obama yesterday blasted right-to-work as “giving you the right to work for less money.”

Unfortunately we can’t have a fully controlled experiment here since Michigan’s economy is recovering and new jobs might be come to Michigan regardless of the law. However, a drastic step such as adopting right-to-work laws, with their known detrimental effects, should show a clear increase in jobs coming to the state. Just something to keep in mind in two years when Snyder is up for reelection.

Incidentally, Greg Sargent describes one way in which this might be overturned.

Update: Conservatives have “right-to-work” the “death tax” “right to life” and other ways of renaming positions to affect public opinion. The mainstream media tries to make both sides sound equivalent. “Inheritance tax” and “pro-choice” sound like far more honest terms than those used by conservatives. Are there any liberal equivalents to the conservative renaming of viewpoints which I’m not thinking of? Does the lack of similar tactics by liberals mean that liberals are more honest or less skillful politically (or both)?

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Michigan Legislature Considering Bills To Limit Access To Abortion

After the midterm elections of 2010 I found myself living in a red state. This November the Republicans realized that the situation which placed them in power has changed. The Michigan legislature will still be controlled by Republicans in the next session, but their majority is shrinking, and they realize there is a chance they will be removed in another two years. They decided to suddenly push harder for their reactionary agenda in the lame duck session. By now most have heard how Michigan has passed a “right to work” law. This isn’t the only mischief that the legislature has been up to. The Detroit Free Press reports on new legislation to limit access to abortion:

Legislation that could limit access to abortion — several measures that shot through Thursday in a chaotic day in Lansing — drew sharp criticism Friday from Michigan residents who said the proposals run roughshod over women’s rights and could allow doctors to pick and choose patients based on religious or moral beliefs.

A package of three Senate bills would prevent insurers on the state’s health care exchange — a provision of health care reform that Michigan must still establish — from automatically including coverage for abortion in their policies offered on the exchange.

Rather, an employer or an individual purchaser of the plan would have to request and pay separately for abortion coverage.

As it stands now, nearly 80% of plans in Michigan cover abortion, according to Lori Lamerand, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan…

The bills need to pass the House and be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder before they would become law.

But a similar measure to make abortion coverage available only through a supplemental policy might be closer to law.

It was tucked inside legislation that would allow Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to change its business structure. That bill, with last-minute amendments tacked on that would apply to other insurers as well, is headed for Snyder’s desk. Snyder has pushed for legislation to allow the Blue Cross the change in its business plan.

Voters sent a clear message in the 2012 election that we do not want Republican big government forcing the repugnant moral views of the religious right upon others. If younger and more liberal voters remain engaged in two years and do not stay home as they did four years ago, actions such as this could lead to Michigan becoming a fully blue state once again in 2014. The actions of the Michigan legislature also show why there is no safety in electing a moderate Republican such as Governor Rick Snyder if he is willing to sign most of the bills passed by the Republican legislature. If Jennifer Granholm was still in Lansing, we know she would be vetoing these measures.

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Turkeys Of The Day: The GOP Michigan Legislature For Proposing Tax Credit For Fetuses

In honor of Thanksgiving, the Turkeys of the Day are the Republicans in the Michigan legislature who are proposing an income tax credit for fetuses–despite having previously eliminated the tax credit for children. From the Guardian:

Republican lawmakers in Michigan, a state which eliminated tax credits for children last year, have proposed a tax credit for unborn foetuses of 12 weeks gestation.

If the measure, outlined in two bills heard by the house tax policy committee on Tuesday, becomes law it would be the first of its kind in the US.

Critics said the proposal was “absurd” and described it as a backdoor way of trying to pass “personhood” legislation which would give rights to an embryo and crack down on abortion.

The Michigan house of representatives this year passed part of a three-bill package that would restrict access to abortion and heavily regulate clinic that performs them. Republican leaders have come under fire for banning a Democrat from speaking after she said the word “vagina” in a debate on an abortion bill earlier this year.

The nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency has estimated that this tax credit would cost the state between $5 million and $10 million annually in lost tax revenue (via Think Progress).

More on the story at MLive.

Related:

Turkey of the Day: Georgia Businessman Blaming His Business Problems on Obama (2011)

Happy Thanksgiving (2012) Former president and turkey George Bush; Clips from Thanksgiving at the Bartlet White House

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West Wing Reunion For Michigan Candidate

Bridget Mary McCormack, a candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court, has received help from the cast of The West Wing to get voters to remember to vote on the non-partisan portion of the Michigan ballot even if voting a straight party ticket for other races.

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Democratic Convention Day 3: Osama bin Laden is Dead, General Motors Is Alive, and Mitt is a Twitt

It was another strong day for the Democrats, leading up to Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. While Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, and ultimately Barack Obama dominated their evenings, there were many other strong speakers throughout the convention. The Democrats’ “second string” did a better job than the major speakers at the Republican convention. There was a wide variety of speakers, but they all showed a fundamental difference between the parties. The Democrats offer a big tent while the Republicans tell you to buy your own umbrella.

The two speakers who I have met in the past each did an excellent job. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, spoke on Obama saving the auto industry:

The entire auto industry, and the lives of over one million hard-working Americans, teetered on the edge of collapse. And with it, the whole manufacturing sector.

We looked everywhere for help. Almost nobody had the guts to help us – not the banks, not the private investors, and not Bain Capital. Then, in 2009, the cavalry arrived: our new President, Barack Obama! He organized a rescue, made the tough calls, and saved the American auto industry. Mitt Romney saw the same crisis and you know what he said: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

Sure, Mitt Romney loves our lakes and trees. He loves our cars so much, they have their own elevator. But the people who design, build, and sell those cars? Well, in Romney’s world, the cars get the elevator – the workers get the shaft. Mitt Romney says his business experience qualifies him to be President. Sure, he’s made lots of money. Good for him. But how did he make that fortune, and at whose expense? Too often, he made it at the expense of middle-class Americans.Year after year, it was profit before people.

President Obama?

With the auto rescue, he saved more than one million middle-class jobs all across America.

John Kerry had a strong speech on foreign policy, turning around the classic Ronald Reagan line: “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago.” Full video of Kerry’s speech is above.

Joe Biden  returned to the line he has used many times: Osama bin Laden is Dead and General Motors is Alive.  Biden was brilliant to tie in Romney’s position on the auto industry to the Bain way:

When I look back now on the President’s decision, I also think of another son of an automobile man–Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney grew up in Detroit.  His father ran American Motors.  Yet he was willing to let Detroit go bankrupt.  It’s not that he’s a bad guy. I’m sure he grew up loving cars as much as I did.  I just don’t think he understood—I just don’t think he understood what saving the automobile industry meant-to all of America.  I think he saw it the Bain way. Balance sheets. Write-offs.

Folks, the Bain way may bring your firm the highest profit. But it’s not the way to lead your country from its highest office.

When things hung in the balance, the President understood it was about a lot more than the automobile industry.  It was about restoring America’s pride.   He knew what it would mean to leave 1 million people without hope or work if we didn’t act. He knew the message it would have sent to the rest of the world if the United States of America gave up on the industry that helped put America on the map. Conviction.  Resolve.

He was similarly hard on Romney’s mistaken view on bin Laden as he described Obama’s strength:

We sat for days in the Situation Room.  He listened to the risks and reservations about the raid. And he asked the tough questions. But when Admiral McRaven looked him in the eye and said– “Sir, we can get this done,” I knew at that moment Barack had made his decision.  His response was decisive. He said do it.  And justice was done.

But Governor Romney didn’t see things that way.  When he was asked about bin Laden in 2007, he said, and I quote, “it’s not worth moving heaven and earth, and spending billions of dollars, just trying to catch one person.”

He was wrong. If you understood that America’s heart had to be healed, you would have done exactly what the President did. And you too would have moved heaven and earth–to hunt down bin Laden, and bring him to justice.

Biden summed up the different visions offered by the two parties: “A future where we promote the private sector, not the privileged sector.” So much for more  bogus Republican framing.  As he demolished Romney’s poor decisions, perhaps BIden should extend his line to “Osama bin Laden is Dead, General Motors Is Alive, and Mitt is a Twitt.”

Finally the man smart enough to marry Michelle Obama (as Clinton called him yesterday) came on.  It was a terrible moment for Mitt Romney. There was no empty chair. Barack Obama showed how successful he can be by campaigning on his record, demolishing a common Republican bromide. First he summarized the differences between the parties and had the best line of the evening:

Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last thirty years:

“Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.”

“Deficit too high? Try another.”

“Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”

Now, I’ve cut taxes for those who need it – middle-class families and small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China. After all that we’ve been through, I don’t believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We’ve been there, we’ve tried that, and we’re not going back. We’re moving forward.

Obama countered the Republican false framing that Democrats are the party of big government. Instead he explained that Democrats are the party which understands that there is a role for government:
We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.
In contrast, Obama pointed out that Republicans are the party of big government intruding in the private lives of individuals, warning about “Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should make for themselves.” He promised to prevent Medicare from turning into a voucher program, to protect seniors, and to protect the middle class:

I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. I refuse to ask students to pay more for college; or kick children out of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, elderly, or disabled – all so those with the most can pay less.

And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care – not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it – not by turning it over to Wall Street.

This is the choice we now face. This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and “borrow money from your parents.”

Republicans avoided talk about Afghanistan and supporting veterans. Obama joined other speakers in warning of the dangers of making someone as inexperienced and uninformed as Mitt Romney become Commander-in-Chief:

So now we face a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.

After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy – and not al Qaeda – unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally. My opponent said it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq, and he won’t tell us how he’ll end the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I will. And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways. After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.

This election is far more about the economy than foreign policy, but will Americans elect a president who is so clearly over his head on issues of national security?
It will be interesting to see what effect this convention has on the polls. I’m not sure that there are many voters left who haven’t made up their minds to provide the types of convention bounces we have seen in the past. Romney received little to no bounce after his convention. The Democrats put on a far better convention and we will soon have an answer as to whether any convention can provide a big bounce. Gallup has shown Obama with a one point lead through the entire Republican convention and into today. As they use a seven day average it will take a few more days to see whether their is a bounce. Reuters is receiving a lot of attention in the conservative blogs for saying there has been no bounce for Obama, but this was after only one night, before the speeches by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
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Mitt Romney Has Been A Phoney For A Long Time–Pretended To Be Police Officer When A Student But Avoided Being A Soldier

Mitt Romney loves to pretend to be a guy who knows something about the economy and creating jobs. When he was younger he would pretend to be a policeman. I don’t mean when he was six . While in college he would wear a Michigan State Police uniform obtained from his father (the former governor), and even pull people over:

When Mitt Romney was a college freshman, he told fellow residents of his Stanford University dormitory that he sometimes disguised himself as a police officer – a crime in many states, including Michigan and California, where he then lived. And he had the uniform on display as proof.

So recalls Robin Madden, who had also just arrived as a freshman, the startling incident began when Romney called him and two or three other residents into his room, saying, “Come up, I want to show you something.” When they entered Romney’s room, “and laid out on his bed was a Michigan State Trooper’s uniform.”

Madden, a native Texan who graduated from Stanford in 1970 and went on to become a successful television producer and writer, has never forgotten that strange moment, which he has recounted to friends over the years as he observed his former classmate’s political ascent. The National Memo learned of the incident from a longtime Madden friend to whom he had mentioned it years ago.

Said Madden in a recent interview, “He told us that he had gotten the uniform from his father,” George Romney, then the Governor of Michigan, whose security detail was staffed by uniformed troopers. “He told us that he was using it to pull over drivers on the road. He also had a red flashing light that he would attach to the top of his white Rambler.”

In Madden’s recollection, confirmed by his wife Susan, who also attended Stanford during those years, “we thought it was all pretty weird. We all thought, ‘Wow, that’s pretty creepy.’ And after that, we didn’t have much interaction with him,” although both Madden and Romney were prep school boys living in the same dorm, called Rinconada.

Other eyewitnesses have previously recalled Romney’s alleged use of a police or trooper uniform in pranks during his high school years at the exclusive Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Phillip Maxwell, a prep school buddy, told the New Republic in 2008 that Romney had pulled over students from a girls school next door to Cranbrook while wearing a police uniform as a prank. Other former classmates described Mitt as a “happy-go-lucky guy known less for his achievements and more for his pranks.”

In The Real Romney, a biography published by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman this year, another former friend recalled how Romney had “put a siren on top of his car and chased two of his friends who were driving around with their dates.” The two friends were in on the scheme, but the girls were not. There was beer in the car trunk, according to a prearranged plan. Mitt told his two counterparts to get out of their vehicle and into his car. Then they drove off, leaving the girls behind.

“It was a terrible thing to do,” said one of his accomplices, a Cranbrook classmate named Graham McDonald.

To some observers, Romney’s alleged masquerading as a cop to intimidate innocent drivers shows a character defect that is also revealed by other bullying incidents during his youth. When those incidents were disclosed in the Washington Post earlier this year, Romney issued an apology of sorts, stating that he had done “stupid” things and was sorry if he had harmed anyone.

While he may have believed that his cop antics were harmless, Romney may well have been breaking the law merely by donning a police uniform, committing a crime if he pretended to be a cop and a felony if he did so more than once. In both California and Michigan, any person convicted of fraudulently impersonating a police officer may be sentenced to up to one year in prison. (The National Memohas collected some other examples of police impersonators.)

The Romney campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Following his sophomore year at Stanford, young Mitt left and never went back. For more than two years he served as a Mormon missionary in France — thus avoiding the obligation to wear a very different  uniform in Vietnam.

I doubt that incidents which occurred so many years ago will have much influence on the election, but it is hard not to question if these were early signs of the character flaws which have been seen whenever Romney has run for office. The evidence that he was a chicken-hawk, along with contradictory statements over the years about Viet Nam, might further harm his credibility. From AP:

Though an early supporter of the Vietnam War, Romney avoided military service at the height of the fighting after high school by seeking and receiving four draft deferments, according to Selective Service records. They included college deferments and a 31-month stretch as a “minister of religion” in France, a classification for Mormon missionaries that the church at the time feared was being overused. The country was cutting troop levels by the time he became eligible for the draft, and his lottery number was not called…

As a presidential candidate in 2007, Romney told The Boston Globe he was frustrated, as a Mormon missionary, not to be fighting alongside his countrymen.

“I was supportive of my country,” Romney said. “I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there, and in some ways it was frustrating not to feel like I was there as part of the troops that were fighting in Vietnam.”

However, as on so many topics, Romney said the opposite in 1994:

But the frustration he recalled in 2007 does not match a sentiment he shared as a Massachusetts Senate candidate in 1994, when he told The Boston Herald, “I was not planning on signing up for the military.”

“It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam, but nor did I take any actions to remove myself from the pool of young men who were eligible for the draft,” Romney told the newspaper.

 

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Pete Hoekstra Now Pandering To Birthers

My lunatic former Congressman is at it again. Pete Hoekstra, who has already been pandering to the Tea Party, is now going after the support of the Birthers. The Detroit Free Press reports:

At a tea party gathering in Lapeer earlier this month, U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra said he’d like to create a federal office in Washington that would verify that presidential candidates meet the minimum requirements to hold the office.

“This is not brain surgery. It should be an FBI person, maybe a CIA person,” said Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman from Holland, during the meeting in response to a question from the audience about Obama’s citizenship. “If you want to run for president, you’ve got to go with the proper documentation and get it certified that you meet the qualifications to be the President of the United States.”

Hoekstra also said that the issue became moot when U.S. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican candidate for president, declined to make it an issue during the campaign.

“I’d love to give you an answer and say I’m going to fight it and beat it and win it. But it wasn’t fought in 2008 and we lost,” he said.

Democrats jumped on the comments as being out of touch and out of the mainstream.

“You can’t get much further outside the mainstream than calling for the creation of a birther office staffed by the CIA and FBI,” said state Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer. “Our leaders should be focused on creating jobs, not on creating a new federal bureaucracy to comb through birth certificates.”

The Hoekstra campaign said this afternoon that Hoekstra believes that President Obama is a U.S. citizen.

In the past Hoekstra has done things such as claiming (along with Rick Santorum) that WMD was found in Iraq long after even the Bush administration conceded it did not exist, divulge military secrets on Twitter, use scare tactics when there was talk of moving prisoners from Guantanamo, play politics with the attempted terrorist attack on a flight coming into Detroit in 2009, and running a blatantly racist ad during the Superbowl.

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