Obama: “But I Like You Anyway, Bill.”

Dana Milbank pointed out a few facts about Bill O’Reilly’s pre-Super Bowl interview of President Obama:

The Fox News host and purveyor of anti-Obama sentiment was given 10 minutes to question the man he decries to millions nightly. O’Reilly devoted nearly 40 percent of his time to the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, 30 percent to the Obamacare rollout and 20 percent to IRS targeting.

Along the way, he interrupted the president 42 times, by my count — although, given the amount O’Reilly spoke, it may be more accurate to say Obama was interrupting him. Sometimes he argued with Obama as though the president were a guest on “The O’Reilly Factor.” Of the 2,500 words uttered during the interview, O’Reilly spoke nearly 1,000 of them.

Dang. O’Reilly only spoke about 40% of the time? I thought it was more than that.

Billo actually did two interviews that day. The second interview was aired on Monday night. In that second interview, O’Reilly actually spoke only 35% of the time (810 out of 2290 or so), so his jaws must have been tired or else the Secret Service was giving him the evil eye.

In any case, I will post the entire second interview transcript below (the video is here) partly because not only does it show again that Bill O’Reilly thinks he is president, but it also demonstrates the tried-and-true Fox formula: use false assumptions and incomplete information in order to draw preordained conclusions and make erroneous declarations.

But the real reason I post the interview transcript is because it shows the personability of Barack Obama and his easy-going nature, even as he pushes back against the stuff floating around in Bill O’Reilly’s head and as he tirelessly corrects all the things O’Reilly thinks he knows but doesn’t:

BILL O’REILLY - One of my, uh, points on the Factor is that poverty is driven by the dissolution of the American family, that is the prime mover, okay. On your watch, median income has dropped seventeen percent among working families in this country. That’s not a good record, it’s not all your fault, part of it was this terrible recession, we all know that. Everybody knows that.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Okay.

O’REILLY - All right. But 72 percent of babies in African-American community are born out of wedlock.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Yeah.

O’REILLY - Why isn’t there a campaign by you and the first lady to address that problem very explicitly?

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Actually, Bill, we address it explicitly all the time. I-I’ll send you at least 10 speeches I’ve made since I’ve been president talking about the importance of men taking responsibility for their children. Talking about the importance of, uh, young people, uh, delaying gratification. Talking about the importance of, uh, when it comes to child rearing, paying child support, spending time with your kids, reading with them. So, whether it’s getting publicity or not is a whole different question.

O’REILLY - But —

PRESIDENT OBAMA - This is something that we focus on all the time.

O’REILLY - Would you say it’s been a hallmark of your administration to make that issue, because I don’t believe it has. I know you’ve given the speeches, and I know you know — understand the problem, because you’re a community organizer from Chicago.

PRESIDENT OBAMA -Yes.

O’REILLY - All right? But I don’t see the pressure from the Federal government to go in and say, this is wrong, this is — this is killing, um, futures of babies and children.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Well first of all, I’ve just got to say, Bill, we talk about it all the time, we’ll continue to talk about it, we’re convening, for example, philanthropists and business people, city by city, who are interested in addressing these kinds of problems at the local level. There is an economic component to it as well, though.

O’REILLY -Sure.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Because — because what’s interesting, when you look at what’s going on right now, you’re starting to see in a lot of white working class homes, similar problems — when men can’t find good work, when the economy is shutting ladders of opportunity off from people, whether they’re black, white, Hispanic, it doesn’t matter. Then that puts pressure as well on the home. So you’ve got an interaction between the economy that isn’t generating enough good jobs for folks who traditionally could get blue-collar jobs even if they didn’t have a higher education, and some legitimate social concerns, uh. That compound the problem and so we want to hit both. We want to make sure that we’re putting folks back to work and making sure that they’re well-paid —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – But this is —

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – We also want to make sure that we’re dealing with some of the social issues that you’re addressing.

O’REILLY - The secret to getting a je — good job is education. And in these chaotic families, the children aren’t well-educated because it isn’t — it isn’t, um, encouraged at home as much as it is in other precincts. Now, school vouchers is a way to level the playing field. Why do you oppose school vouchers when it would give poor people a chance to go to better schools?

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Actually — every study that’s been done on school vouchers, Bill, says that it has very limited impact if any —

O’REILLY - Try it.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - On — it has been tried, it’s been tried in Milwaukee, it’s been tried right here in DC —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – And it worked here.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - No, actually it didn’t. When you end up taking a look at it, it didn’t actually make that much of a difference. So what we have been supportive of is, uh, something called charters. Which, within the public school system gives the opportunity for creative experiments by teachers, by principals to-to start schools that have a different approach. And —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – You would revisit that? I-I just think — I used be, teach in a Catholic school, a-and I just know —

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – Bill — you know, I — I’ve taken, I’ve taken — I’ve taken a look at it. As a general proposition, vouchers has not significantly improved the performance of kids that are in these poorest communities —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] [INAUDIBLE] -

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Some charters — some charters are doing great. Some Catholic schools do a great job, but what we have to do is make sure every child —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – I got three more questions.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Go ahead.

O’REILLY - All right. Keystone pipeline, new study comes in, environmental impact, negligible. Forty-two thousand jobs. You’re gonna okay it, I assume.   

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Well first of all, it’s not forty two thousand. That’s — that’s not, uh, correct, it’s a couple thousand to build the pipeline, but —       

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – Forty-two all told.   

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Well, that, bottom line is what we’re gonna do is to, uh, the process now goes agencies comment on what the State Department did, public’s allowed to comment, Kerry’s gonna, uh, give me a recommendation, uh —        

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – All right, so I assume we’re gonna do that, after five years —

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] [INAUDIBLE] -

O’REILLY - Okay. I’ll take that as a yes. Little Sisters of the Poor, come on, give them the little waiver that they don’t have to —

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – They have, you know —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – Come on, the Little Sisters of the Poor? Give them what they want.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Bill, I —

O’REILLY - Right now. Let’s-let’s just do this.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Bill, take, here-here’s the way this thing works. All they have to do is sign a form saying they don’t — they are a religious institution —

O’REILLY - And then they get what they want, right?

PRESIDENT OBAMA - And — and they get what they want. What they — the problem is they don’t want to sign the form —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – Well, we’ll —

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Because they think that that somehow, uh, uh, makes them complicit.

O’REILLY - I’m happy now that the Little Sisters are going to get what they want. Uh, now. Um. FOX News. Uh, I can’t speak for FOX News. All right, but I’m — I’m, you know, the table setter here [INAUDIBLE] -.

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] [INAUDIBLE] -

O’REILLY - Do you think I’m being unfair to you, do you think I’ve been giving you —

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – Absolutely. Of course you have, Bill. But, I like you anyway, Bill.

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – Okay, but — give me how I’m unfair.

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – It-it-but — look —

O’REILLY - Give me how I’m unfair. Come on, you can’t make that accusation without telling me.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Bill — we’ve just run through an interview in which you asked about health, uh, health care not working, IRS where-where we, uh, wholly corrupt, Benghazi —

O’REILLY - All right.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Right, so the list of issues that you talk about —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – But these are unanswered questions —

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Yeah, but-but-but they’re defined by you guys in a certain way. But this — look, this is okay. This-this is —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – Do you not —

PRESIDENT OBAMA - If you want to — if you want to be President of the United States, then you know that you’re going to be subject to criticism, and —

O’REILLY - But if it’s unfair, I-I want to know if it’s unfair. Is it un — criticism is criticism. It’s my job to give you a hard time.

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – Here — here — here’s what I would say. I think regardless of whether it’s fair or not, uh, it has, uh, it has made FOX News very successful.

O’REILLY - But if I’m unfair, I want —

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – Here’s what — here’s the thing you guys — here’s what you guys are gonna have to figure out is what are — what are you gonna do when I’m gone? I’m telling you —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] [INAUDIBLE] [LAUGHS] -

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] [INAUDIBLE] -

O’REILLY - Ah-ha-ha — ask President Clinton. Ask President Bush. I gave President Bush a real hard time. Are you the most liberal President in US History?

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Probably not.

O’REILLY - Probably not?

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Probably not. That’s-that’s fair to say.

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – Who-who would be?

PRESIDENT OBAMA - You know, the truth of the matter is, is that when you look at some of my policies, um, in a lot of ways, Richard Nixon was more — more liberal than I was. Started the EPA. You know, uh, you know, started, uh, uh, a whole lot of the regulatory state that, uh, has helped make our air and water clean. Um.

O’REILLY - That’s interesting — Nixon — that’s interesting. I thought you were gonna say FDR.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Well, FDR — Johnson. But I tend not to think about these things in terms of liberal and democrat — or liberal and conservative because at any given time, the question is what does the country need right now? And what — right now what the country needs is, uh, roads, bridges, uh, infrastructure, we-we got 2 trillion dollars worth of, uh, unmet needs. We could put — be putting construction workers back to work right now, folks that you like to champion. Why aren’t we doing it? That’s not a liberal or conservative agenda —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] [INAUDIBLE] -

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – Well, why-why aren’t we funding it? The, uh, when it comes — comes to something like basic research to keep our innovation edge. That’s the thing that sent the man to space, that’s the thing that created the internet. Why aren’t we — why aren’t we funding —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – Because we have a seventeen trillion dollar debt. We can’t do these things.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - No, the uh — but the reason we don’t do them is because we’re not willing to make decisions, for example, uh, our tax code is rife with loopholes —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – That’s true, you can’t —

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – And for us to close those loopholes, we could put people to work right now. Is that a Democrat — is that a Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal thing? It’s neither. It’s common sense. That’s what we should be doing.

O’REILLY -All right.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - In fact, you and I, if we sat down, we could probably agree on —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – Well, I’ve said that on air. We don’t disagree on —

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – Raising the minimum wage, something that you —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – But one — one thing we do —

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – Yes, right.

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – I support this.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - I know. And that’s —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – You have to do it.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - And that’s —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – You want to get people off welfare, you raise the — minimum wage.

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – That’s not a liberal or a-a conservative agenda.

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – No, fine. But I think that you are much more friendly to a nanny state than I am. I’m more of a self-reliance guy, you’re more of a big government will solve your problems guy.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - And I — and I —

O’REILLY -That’s it.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - And I disagree with that because I think that what used to be considered sensible we now somehow label as-as liberal. Think about this — Social Security, Medicare —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – But you pay into that. It’s the freebies that are the problem.

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – Is it? What-what freebies are we talking about? Welfare, actually is worth less now than it was 20, 30 — it’s worth less than it was under Ronald Reagan. And the uh —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – Take a look at the disability explosion. I mean, it’s insane. The workplace isn’t any more dangerous now than it was it was 20 —

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – Well —

O’REILLY — years ago, it’s through the roof. You know people are conning you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – You know, Bill, the point is, we have not massively expanded the welfare state. That’s just not true. When you take a look at it, actually, that-the-the levers of support that we provide to folks who are willing to work hard, they’re not that different than they were thirty years ago, forty years ago, fifty years ago. You and I took advantage of certain things. I don’t know about you, but I got some loans to go to college.

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – Nah, I painted houses, I didn’t get any —

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – The, uh, well, I, no —

O’REILLY [OVERLAP] – See, that’s who I am. I —

PRESIDENT OBAMA - I painted houses during the summer too. It still wasn’t enough. So, the, uh, so my point is is that that’s not a nanny state. That’s an investment in the future generation. G.I. Bill — is that a nanny state? My grandfather came back for World War II, you’re about to write a book on World War II. Smartest thing we ever did was make an investment in the American people. When those guys came back from war, that’s what created our middle class. We-we suddenly trained up and created skills for folks. We gave ‘em subsidies so they could go out and buy homes. Through the FHA, those things weren’t giveaways. We-we understood that what that would do would create a base middle class of folks who were able to, uh, work hard and get ahead.

O’REILLY - The work ethic was different then than it is now.

PRESIDENT OBAMA [OVERLAP] – Well —

O’REILLY - All right, last questions.

PRESIDENT OBAMA -We’ll have to improve the work ethic.

O’REILLY - And here’s something that you and I agree on.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - What’s that?

O’REILLY - And I’ll tell everybody. You helped the Veterans. Now I believe the VA should be doing a lot more than it’s doing. But you, I have come to you four times, and every time you have, uh, done what I have asked, and we have raised more than twenty million dollars for wounded veterans and their families. And I — you know, so when they say that you don’t care and all of that I know that’s not true. But fundamentally, the self-reliance thing in America I think is going down, and the nanny state is going up. Last word. You get it.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - Here’s-here’s-here’s what I believe. First of all, biggest honor I’ve ever had and will ever have is serving as Commander in Chief, and when you meet our military families and our men and women in uniform, they-they, uh. They are so outstanding. You just have to want to help. And you have done great work, Bill, uh, on behalf of our veterans. Number two, I think self-reliance is alive and well in America. I think the problem is people don’t see as many opportunities to get ahead. My job as President, as long as I’m in this office, is to give them the tools to get ahead. They gotta work hard, they gotta be responsible, but if they are, let’s make sure that they can make it in America. That’s what it’s all about. That’s how you and I ended up sitting here talking.

O’REILLY – Mr. President, thanks, always a pleasure to talk with you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA - I enjoyed it, Bill. Thank you very much.

Quiet Passion

“Anybody in this country who works hard should have a fair shot at success, period.”

—President Obama, January 9, 2104

A week ago today Chris Christie gave his famous press conference denying he knew anything about his aides deliberately clogging up traffic on New Jersey’s side of the busiest bridge in the world for some unknown reason. That presser has been the subject of much media attention, for obvious reasons.

Because of all that attention given to the Christie traffic scandal, what you probably missed a week ago today was a remarkable speech President Obama gave in the East Room of the White House, a few hours after Christie’s press conference that morning. Fortunately for me, MSNBC broadcast the entire speech, the first one in which I heard the President say,

This is going to be a year of action.

Part of the action involves the federal government establishing what the President called “Promise Zones.” He defined them this way:

They’re neighborhoods where we will help local efforts to meet one national goal — that a child’s course in life should be determined not by the zip code she’s born in, but by the strength of her work ethic and the scope of her dreams.

President Obama made clear that he wasn’t just talking about “poverty in our inner cities,” but also about “suburban neighborhoods that have been hammered by the housing crisis,” and “manufacturing towns that still haven’t recovered after the local plant shut down,” and “islands of rural America where jobs are scarce.” Those are diverse zip codes.

And he also talked about how helping these diverse communities wasn’t just the job of government, but should include “faith institutions and our businesses and the parents and the communities themselves.” The model of government partnering with non-government entities used in the speech was an organization called the Harlem Children’s Zone, which serves poor children and families in Harlem by providing parenting support (“Baby College”), pre-school programs (“to get kids learning at four years old”) and public charter schools (“that help students succeed all the way through high school”).

In the audience listening to the speech were none other than both senators from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. One of the initial five Promise Zones will be in southeastern Kentucky.

Having said all that, what I really found amazing about the speech you will see in the clip posted below. I watched both Chris Christie’s press conference and this speech by Obama on the same day and I must say the contrast was striking.

There was a young man standing behind the President named Roger Brown, who had attended Harlem Children’s Zone and who, you will hear the President say, “almost got himself expelled” for misbehaving. He is now a college sophomore. What you will also hear, in the President’s voice as he wanders off script, is the kind of quiet passion he almost never gets credit for. There are those who do things with a roar, like Chris Christie, and there are those who do things with much less noise but with as much or more passion.

Before you watch the five-minute clip below, read part of what President Obama said and think about how amazing it is that the United States of America, an experiment largely started by some brilliant and hypocritical white men, has become such a place that someone with a dark complexion and a strange name can today lead the country and say this:

If you want to know why I care about this stuff so much. It’s because I’m not that different from Roger.  There was a period of time in my life where I was goofing off.  I was raised by a single mom.  I didn’t know my dad.  The only difference between me and Roger was my environment was more forgiving than his.  That’s the only difference.  If I screwed up, the consequences weren’t quite as great…

I want more kids to have the chance that Roger got.  I want more kids to have the chance this country gave me.  We should all want every one of our kids and their families to have a shot at success.  If you are willing to dream big and work hard, you should grow up with the same opportunities in life as any other child living in any other place. 

The entire speech can be seen here. Transcript here.

White Guilt And The Black Guy In The White’s House

Last night Sean Hannity referred to the IRS mess as the “IRS enemies-list scandal.” The only thing you can say about that particular phrasing is that the man who said it is, well, nuts. He’s nuts with Obama-hate. He and other Republicans will not rest until they turn Barack Obama into a darker version, literally and figuratively, of a White House-fleeing Richard Nixon.

And speaking of nuts and Obama-hate, yesterday Rush Limbaugh, speaking of all the non-scandals going on, said,

The real danger to me, though, is not one or two rogue employees at the IRS or the NSA or the CIA. The real danger is having a rogue administration. And we do, I think. This is the primary challenge that we face.

Yes, that’s nutty. But not as nutty as something else Limbaugh presented to millions of right-wing worshipers:

obama regime

In his IQ-draining monologue, Limbaugh advanced his long-held and long-articulated theory of how it is that Barack Obama is able to remain relatively popular and get away with all these scandals and governmental malfeasance and socialist destruction:

White guilt.  Race…In addition to everything else in the Limbaugh Theorem, the fact that there is so much guilt, white guilt that’s behind the election of Obama, that that same white guilt is simply not gonna show up and hold him responsible.  Not you and I.  I mean, we voted against Obama, so we don’t have white guilt, but there’s a lot of white voters that voted for Obama simply because of racial reasons, hoping to get rid of racism or wanting people know they weren’t racists or whatever, but it’s all oriented towards how Shelby Steele has described it, and I think brilliantly, white guilt. 

…It’s why he’s not going to be held responsible for anything.  The whole reason for his existence — and he’s exploiting it, by the way, and knows it — is that enough people in this country feel so guilty over slavery and the civil rights violations that whatever is necessary to assuage that, they will do. 

I mentioned to you two weeks ago, maybe longer, that, in my view — and I’d like to be wrong about this — but I can’t foresee any circumstance where the first African-American president be removed from office.  Can you tell me who in the Congress is gonna make that move?  Give me a member of the House of Representatives that is gonna make that move and then be joined by enough other members to make it a reality?  Tell me who’s gonna do it?  Nobody’s gonna do it.  And why aren’t they gonna do it?  If it were ever justified, if it were ever something that were truly constitutionally justified, still not gonna happen because of race. 

There you have it. Barack Obama is able to destroy America because there are too many white people out there paralyzed with guilt over how their ancestors treated black folks. If we white folks could only get rid of our white guilt the way Rush Limbaugh has, we would see the world as he sees it.

Enlightening commentary from the most popular pundit in conservative media, a man whom Republicans dare not challenge.

Darrell Issa, Arsonist And Insurance Swindler, Should Resign

Yesterday, former senior adviser to President Obama, David Plouffe, took to the tweeting machine in order to chastise Darrell Issa, the Obama-hating chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:

plouffe on issa
Forget for a moment the “arsonist/insurance swindler” reference. The “loose ethically” link was to an article on The Hill reporting on Issa’s outrageous but revealing comments on Sunday about Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney.

In case you missed it, Issa called Carney a “paid liar” who is “still making up things” about the IRS non-scandal. Issa also made it clear that, as a good Tea Party conservative, he is following the rules of Republican logic in the Era of the Scary Negro: first reach a conclusion and then find the premises. Here is the context of his statement about Carney:

…the administration is still — their paid liar, their spokesperson…he’s still making up things about what happened and calling this a local rogue. There’s no indication — the reason that Lois Lerner tried to take the Fifth is not because there is a rogue in Cincinnati, it’s because this is a problem that was coordinated, in all likelihood, right out of Washington headquarters and we’re getting to proving it…

Yes. The conclusion comes before the evidence and it is this kind of reasoning that is governing all of the so-called scandals going on, scandals created by GOP extremists and propagated by a willing and illiberal press.

But Issa wasn’t just aiming at Jay Carney or practicing the art of Republican reasoning regarding the IRS drama. He had some arrows in his quiver of shame for Attorney General Eric Holder, yet another Scary Negro. Issa said Holder was lying “by most people’s standards” and then said, “Don’t use perjury lightly” as he was, well, using perjury lightly. He helpfully added,

Perjury is a criminal charge that has to be proven.

Yes, that’s right. Perjury is a specific crime that requires evidence and courts and all that icky proof stuff. It’s much easier just to call someone a liar or to call ill-advised screening techniques used by IRS employees a “scandal” because one doesn’t need evidence for those things, only the charges and accusations, which the press, hot on a juicy scandal story, will report again and again.

As an example of how this stuff gets reported, Mika Brzezinski opened a segment this morning on Morning Joe with this intro,

After weeks of scandal and controversy…

See?  All you have to do is generate controversy and talk incessantly about scandal and, voilà, you’ve got yourself “scandal and controversy” that will be reported as such.

This morning former Obama press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said that the notion Darrell Issa was in charge of government oversight is becoming a joke in Washington, D.C.  I wish that were true. But it isn’t. As long as Issa sits in that chairman’s chair, as long as CNN or CBS or ABC or NBC report on his antics as if they were serious investigations, then he is no joke. He is deliberately attacking the legitimacy of the Obama government in particular, as well as the federal government in general, and he is contributing to the dysfunction—no, paralysis—in Washington.

And with all the problems out there in the country, from chronic unemployment to falling bridges, a paralyzed government is no joke.

Candy Crowley asked Issa whether Eric Holder should resign and Issa smiled and said,

That’s up to the President.

The last thing Darrell Issa wants is for Eric Holder to resign. As long as Holder stays in office, Issa will stay in the headlines and on the Sunday talk circuit. And he will thus enhance his career as a folk hero to right-wing fanatics who hate Democrats, especially that pigmented Democrat in the White’s House and his pigmented Attorney General.

Finally, back to David Plouffe’s reference to Darrell Issa as being a “suspected arsonist/insurance swindler.” Politico reported on Plouffe’s comments with this nice little summary of the matter:

Issa is a successful businessman whose is [sic] the nation’s largest manufacturer of anti-theft devices in vehicles. Though he and his brother were charged with stealing a car in the 1970s, prosecutors later dropped charges, and Issa said he was a victim in the incident, according to a New Yorker profile of Issa from 2011. After a suspicious fire at his business’s factory, the company’s former owner said he suspected Issa set the fire for insurance, but a cause of the fire was never determined and no charges were filed, according to the profile.

Talk about your scandal and controversy. Now, normally I would give Mr. Issa the benefit of the doubt here and say that while it is true that someone suspected him of being an arsonist and insurance swindler, no one ever actually proved he was.

But as a tribute to Republican logic, as a paean to the kind of stuff that Issa has been doing since he became chairman of that House oversight committee, I will go one better than David Plouffe and say that Darrell Issa is an arsonist and an insurance swindler simply because a) someone accused him of these crimes and b) there is, therefore, a controversy about it, which means there is a scandal.

All of which means that this arsonist and swindler should resign immediately.

Desperately Seeking Scandal

In an intriguing, but sad, way, the interests of the Republican Party and the interests of Big Media met, as a triad of quasi-scandals seemed to explode over the White House last weekend. Both the GOP and Big Media need at least the appearance of scandal, thus we have before us, night and day, the appearance of scandal.

Republicans, of course, want to destroy President Obama’s presidency completely, a job they started on January 20, 2009. Big Media, of course, wants to prove to Republicans that journalists, often accused of putting their liberalism and love for Obama over their professional duties, will help right-wingers bring down this president at the slightest hint of trouble.

So much for the “liberal media.” As coverage the past week or so demonstrates, there isn’t, and never was, any such thing.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, the general thrust of the conversation among the talking heads was that Obama was very close to making a Nixonian exit from the scene, what with all the “scandals” surrounding his presidency. On Morning Joe on Wednesday, the general thrust of the conversation among the talking heads was that Obama was not being Nixonian enough, in that he should fire everyone and his brother who had the slightest connection to anything the government might have done wrong. He needed to show how mad he was over this stuff, by God.

Get it? One day Obama is attacked for being Richard Nixon. The next day he is attacked for not being Richard Nixon.

So, what happens? Late Wednesday President Obama obliges the throngs of Republicans and journalists on his trail by firing (uh, “asking for his resignation”) the one guy who apparently had nothing to do with the IRS mess when it actually happened, the agency’s acting director, Steven Miller. “It is important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward,” the President said.

Okay, now that Mr. Miller has been duly sacrificed, let’s see how confidence going forward is being restored. President Obama’s long-time political enemy and chief saboteur for the GOP, Mitch McConnell, had this to say after Steven Miller was given the left foot of fellowship:

If the President is as concerned about this issue as he claims, he’ll work openly and transparently with Congress to get to the bottom of the scandal — no stonewalling, no half-answers, no withholding of witnesses. These allegations are serious — that there was an effort to bring the power of the federal government to bear on those the administration disagreed with, in the middle of a heated national election. We are determined to get answers, and to ensure that this type of intimidation never happens again at the IRS or any other agency.

“These allegations are serious–that there was an effort to bring the power of the federal government to bear on those the administration disagreed with, in the middle of a heated national election,” McConnell said, as if it weren’t he who was making those “allegations,” as if it weren’t his party who was claiming, without even the tiniest bit of evidence, not to mention proof, and without the slightest hint of embarrassment, not to mention shame, that President Obama pulled a Richard Nixon and used the IRS last year in order to keep Mitt Romney from becoming president.

Meanwhile, Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee and one of the most virulent Obama-haters in the country, issued the following Tweets after the Miller dismissal:

priebus tweets

Priebus told fellow Obama-hater Sean Hannity:

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that these folks hated the tea parties—the President called them “teabaggers,” he said he wanted to punish his enemies. That’s what he’s all about.

Yep, that’s our Obama. He’s always trying to punish his enemies, except when he’s golfing or dining with them.

In any case, unless we soon see President Obama boarding a helicopter, after resigning from office, and heading back to Chicago with his pigmented tail between his legs, nothing, absolutely nothing, will quiet down Republicans, who use Big Media to prosecute the President for crimes neither he, nor anyone as far as we know, have committed.

Just one example of how Big Media helps Republicans do that is ABC News’ Jonathan Karl. He was caught—by a former ABC News guy, Jake Tapper, who is now at CNN—inventing a quote in a piece he did on the Benghazi emails, a piece that made it look like the White House was involved in some sort of cover-up of what happened in Benghazi, which just happened to be what Republicans have been claiming since the Benghazi tragedy happened last year.

Not only did Karl pretend he had actually seen the original emails, others on the air at ABC reported it that way too. (You can read the details here.) Now that the emails have been made public (Republicans had them months ago and knew there was nothing incriminating in them relative to the White House), we see that there is exactly no way to claim that Obama, or anyone at the White House, was trying to scrub the “truth” from the infamous talking points that Susan Rice used on those infamous Sunday talk-show appearances so long ago.

It was mostly the CIA , in the person of its deputy director, Michael Morell, who watered down those talking points to the point that David Petraeus, who at the time was actually leading the CIA, said,

Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this.

So, where does Susan Rice, who was smeared repeatedly by Republicans, go to get her reputation back? She might have become Secretary of State, the ultimate job in her diplomatic profession, were it not for the incessant attacks on her character by Republicans in Congress, not one of whom have apologized to her for their disgraceful behavior.

And when does ABC News apologize for misleading reporting, reporting that conveniently supported unsupportable charges made by Republicans?

My hope, and it is only a very faint hope, is that after all the overreaching and misreporting and hysteria related to the the three let’s-pretend-they-are-scandals-even-if-they-might-not-be issues involving the IRS, the attacks in Benghazi, and the Justice Department’s snooping around in the telephone records of Associated Press reporters, that the public will quickly turn off the next Republican who wildly waves his or her hands on Fox or any other cable news channel, claiming our President had done bad things to the country.

I said it was only a hope.

George Will Channels Glenn Beck, Or How A Once-Respected Conservative Columnist Has Caught The Hate-Obama Plague

I’ve often picked on George Will, the conservative columnist famous for being a right-wing nerd.

And I’ve picked on him for good reason. He’s written some nasty and nutty columns in his career, but perhaps none as nasty and nutty as his column in yesterday’s Washington Post (“In IRS scandal, echoes of Watergate”).

While I won’t hold him accountable for the headline of his piece, I will hold him accountable for beginning his piece with a selection from the Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon:

“He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to . . .cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.”

Will, knowing that he is a media darling, intentionally invoked the ghost of Tricky Dicky to, what else, bring attention to himself, which is somewhat excusable I suppose. A guy has to make a living, even if it is peddling nonsense.

But while it is excusable for a conservative columnist to engage in some hyperbole regarding the Obama presidency—and God knows the Scary Negro brings out the beast in those pale-faced conservatives—it is not excusable for a man with the reputation that George Will has enjoyed to engage in the kind of conclusion jumping fit for, say, Glenn Beck:

The burglary occurred in 1972, the climax came in 1974, but 40 years ago this week — May 17, 1973 — the Senate Watergate hearings began exploring the nature of Richard Nixon’s administration. Now the nature of Barack Obama’s administration is being clarified as revelations about IRS targeting of conservative groups merge with myriad Benghazi mendacities.

The nature of Barack Obama’s administration is being clarified…” Hmm. Not one thing that has been revealed so far, from either the IRS fiasco or the Benghazi tragedy, has even come close to implicating President Obama in some kind of Nixonian crime. Not one thing. Nothing. But here is the much-respected George Will comparing the “nature” of Obama’s presidency to Nixon’s. I once thought that only in the noggins of people like Glenn Beck would such tripe thrive. But the plague has spread and even those with intellects are vulnerable.

Oh, and to show how this whole column was designed to draw attention to himself and not to offer us any real insight, Will includes this cover-his-ass disclaimer:

It remains to be discovered whether the chief executive is guilty of more than an amazingly convenient failure to superintend the excesses of some executive-branch employees beyond the Allegheny Mountains.

Wait a minute: “It remains to be discovered whether the chief executive is guilty…”? Huh? Will begins his column with a reference to impeachment, compares Obama to Nixon repeatedly, and then adds, “It remains to be discovered whether the chief executive is guilty…”? What bullshit, what utter bullshit, that is.

And to expect the President, no matter who he is, to “superintend the excesses” of anyone and everyone who works in the executive branch is itself an absurdity. What is Obama supposed to do? Do we want him spending his time running from building to building, city to city, state to state, embassy to embassy, making sure all 2.65 million executive branch employees are doing their jobs correctly?

Is Obama supposed to be the superintendent-in-chief?

The tommyrot in this column culminated in this:

Five days before the IRS story broke, Obama, sermonizing 109 miles northeast of Cincinnati, warned Ohio State graduates about “creeping cynicism” and “voices” that “warn that tyranny is . . . around the corner.” Well.

Well what? What’s that “well” there for? I’ll tell you what it’s there for. It is to confirm that the Scary Negro, the one that has driven pale-faced conservatives nuts for more than four years, is the tyrant they all imagined him to be. Barack Obama is a Black Panther—excuse me, a New Black Panther—who means to do real harm to the country, especially the parts of the country with lots of conservative white folks in it.

Finally, Will claims that,

If Republicans had controlled both houses of Congress in 1973, Nixon would have completed his term. If Democrats controlled both today, the Obama administration’s lawlessness would go uninvestigated.

Get that? Did you get that transition from using the specific name “Nixon” to using the phrase “the Obama administration’s lawlessness”? Did you get that slick move from naming a man who personally committed crimes for which he had to be pardoned, to using the phrase, “the Obama administration“? Again, it’s as if bad deeds done by IRS staffers in Cincinnati or elsewhere is Obama’s fault and is equivalent to the crimes committed by Richard Nixon himself.

What dishonest piffle that is.

And by the way, as Politico reported,

[R]oughly one-third of House committees are engaged in investigating some aspect of the Obama administration…

With millions of Americans out of work or out of full-time work, with a slow economic recovery, with working-class incomes declining, with all the other things going on both here and abroad, ain’t it nice to know that Republicans have something to do?

We Need The Exorcist

Mike Huckabee, Fox host, former governor of Arkansas, former Republican presidential candidate, Baptist preacher, and either a demon-possessed Republican or a Republican-possessed demon (my analysis is incomplete at this time; there may be a distinction here without a difference), has exposed himself as completely out of his mind.

He and a lot of other Benghazi-obsessed Republicans think Big O has been involved in a cover-up of biblical proportions, but Huck has ditched his medication and the resulting stream-of-consciousness insanity is particularly brutal:

I believe that before it’s all over, this president will not fill out his full term. I know that puts me on a limb. But this is not minor. It wasn’t minor when Richard Nixon lied to the American people and worked with those in his administration to cover-up what really happened in Watergate. But, I remind you — as bad as Watergate was, because it broke the trust between the president and the people, no one died. This is more serious because four Americans did in fact die…

When a president lies to the American people and is part of a cover-up, he cannot continue to govern. And as the facts come out, I think we’re going to see something startling. And before it’s over, I don’t think this president will finish his term unless somehow they can delay it in Congress past the next three and a half years.

Just why Barack Obama would want to even remain in office and try to govern a country full of Mike Huckabees is beyond me. I wouldn’t blame O if he and Michelle decided to grab the kids, turn out the lights, and hand the keys to the White’s House over to Huckabee, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Wayne LaPierre, and just be done with it.

exorcist gopThen, by God, we could start two or three more wars in the Middle East, maybe drop a nuke or two on North Korea, kill ObamaCare, boot poor folks off Medicaid and other socialist welfare programs, make gun ownership mandatory, and, oh yeah, start probing the privvies of pregnant women all over the country who don’t have sense enough, by God, to make their own decisions about motherhood.

Either that, or we will have to find a good exorcist—an energetic Democratic electorate who will register and then show up to vote even in off years—to cast the devil out of the Republican Party.

“To Be Worthy Of Their Trust”

I know by now you have heard all the jokes told at the 2013 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The President, as usual, was on his game. But perhaps you didn’t hear what he said at the end, what he said to all the beautiful people and the powerful people and the people who, for better or worse, have incredible influence on what happens to the country.

Or, even if you did hear the president’s final remarks, maybe it would be  better to actually read the words and hope against hope that they will have even the smallest effect:

And in these past few weeks, as I’ve gotten a chance to meet many of the first responders and the police officers and volunteers who raced to help when hardship hits, I was reminded, as I’m always reminded when I meet our men and women in uniform, whether they’re in war theater, or here back home, or at Walter Reed in Bethesda — I’m reminded that all these folks, they don’t do it to be honored, they don’t do it to be celebrated. They do it because they love their families and they love their neighborhoods and they love their country.

And so, these men and women should inspire all of us in this room to live up to those same standards; to be worthy of their trust; to do our jobs with the same fidelity, and the same integrity, and the same sense of purpose, and the same love of country. Because if we’re only focused on profits or ratings or polls, then we’re contributing to the cynicism that so many people feel right now. 

And so, those of us in this room tonight, we are incredibly lucky. And the fact is, we can do better — all of us. Those of us in public office, those of us in the press, those who produce entertainment for our kids, those with power, those with influence — all of us, including myself, we can strive to value those things that I suspect led most of us to do the work that we do in the first place — because we believed in something that was true, and we believed in service, and the idea that we can have a lasting, positive impact on the lives of the people around us.

And that’s our obligation. That’s a task we should gladly embrace on behalf of all of those folks who are counting on us; on behalf of this country that’s given us so much.

The Gun Whore Minority Is Winning

As the U.S. Senate takes up the gun bill today, the following headline tells us everything we need to know about what is wrong with Washington, D.C.:

Joe Manchin Says Background Check Measure Doesn’t Have The Votes, Accuses NRA Of Lying

Senator Manchin, who has been working with right-wing Republican Pat Toomey to present the mildest of reforms to the nation’s background check systsem for gun purchases, said,

We will not get the votes today.

Now, for people living in a democracy, like we are supposed to be living in here in America, Senator Manchin’s statement, and the headline of the story, should mean that there isn’t a majority of senators who would support the background check bill. Except that there is a majority will will support it today.

But here in the real world, where “majority” actually means “super-majority”—60 votes out of 100 in the Senate—saying a bill “doesn’t have the votes” is saying that the minority is in charge.

And that is only part of what is wrong with our ability to govern ourselves. The other part is described by the HuffPo article:

Manchin later criticized the NRA, of which he has been a lifetime member with an “A” rating. “Now when when they are so disingenuous and telling members that our legislation, and I quote, ‘would criminalize the firearms by honest citizens,’” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “This bill does not even touch …”

“That’s a lie,” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough interrupted.

“It is a lie, Joe,” Manchin responded. “If they lose credibility, they’ve lost everything in Washington.”

One would think that what Senator Manchin said is true. One would think that when the the country’s best-known lobbyist for gun manufacturers loses credibility by repeatedly lying about this or any legislation, then legislators would simply ignore the lobbyist. But, of course, what makes Washington work is not credibility but cash. And the NRA, no matter how little credibility it has, does have a lot of cash.

And speaking of having little credibility and lots of cash, now comes Missouri’s reactionary senator, Roy Blunt, and yet another headline that sheds light on what’s wrong with not only Washington, but certain parts of the entire country:

Roy Blunt Raises Specter Of Federal Gun Registry, Despite Explicit Ban

Last week, my senator, who loves lobbyists so much he divorced his first wife and married one, voted against even debating the Manchin-Toomey gun legislation. Blunt, this should be clear, is not only against the bill, he voted against even allowing discussion of the bill in what is laughingly called the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.

But worse than that—if there is something worse than that for a supposedly serious legislator—is that Roy Blunt is a liar. Either that, either he is a liar, or he shares a deep and abiding and dangerous paranoia with people who think the government is coming to get them and that if they can keep secret all their gun purchases they just might have a chance to hold off the United States military.

My guess is that, since Blunt is fond of lobbyists—did I mention that he divorced his first wife and married a lobbyist?—that he is simply lying on behalf of the NRA. He is lying about what the bill would do, in terms of creating a federal gun registry.

As HuffPo points out:

The federal government is already barred from creating a database of every single gun owner in America. And under background check legislation being worked out by the Senate, that ban would be made even more explicit, with harsh penalties for anyone who violated it.

But that’s not enough for Sen. Roy Blunt.

Here’s how Blunt responded when asked about the issue by none other than Fox “News” host Gregg Jarrett:

JARRETT: One of your objections — or your main objection — is really that you’re fearful that this will lead to a federal gun registry. Well, Sen. Toomey, your Republican colleague who negotiated this bipartisan deal with Manchin, insists it will not in any way lead to a gun registry.

BLUNT: And that’s his point of view, and it’s one that may have validity. Just last week, it was determined that the state of Missouri — my state — had given 167,000 concealed carry permit information on 160,000 people to, of all federal agencies, the Social Security Administration. Once you get these lists out there — once you have a gun dealer keeping lists for lots of other people — the only way that works, frankly, is if you keep the paper. And if you keep the paper, eventually somebody’s going to ask for it.

Notice how quickly Blunt acknowledged that the other side might be right. But also notice that even if what Blunt said was true—and obviously it is not—even if someone asked for “the paper,” so what? What is it that Blunt fears? Does he fear that law-abiding gun owners will soon be the subject of an impossible-to-conceive gun grab by the feds?

Does he fear that Barack Obama  will find out where all the white folks who own guns live and then tell a barely-breathing New Black Panther Party where they are so we can have a race war?

Or perhaps Blunt fears that Barack Obama will not step down after his second term and instead use the military to go after every single gun owner in the country and rip the weapons from millions of cold, dead hands.

Or, more likely, Blunt fears that the NRA, which has given him so much cash in his career that he is fourth on the Top Ten Gun Whores in Congress list, that the gun manufacturer lobbying group will stop paying him for lying on their behalf.

You figure it out. In the mean time, the country is nearly ungovernable, thanks to a minority of Grand Old Paranoids.

Socialism’s Surprising Supporters In Southwest Missouri

Let’s begin with a relatively lengthy selection from the Joplin Globe’s endorsement of Mittens Romney in 2012, and please follow the logic the paper used to toss its 2008 Obama endorsement under the editorial bus:

And on the issue that most threatens our nation’s future well-being — unchecked federal spending — this nation is more than stalled. It is in reverse. [...]

During the first debate, Romney bluntly warned moderator Jim Lehrer that he would cut off funds for public broadcasting if the nation was having to borrow money from China to pay for it. If true, it’s the kind of thing a debtor nation must do.

The Obama campaign attacked Romney on that point.

Sure, funding for public broadcasting is an insignificant part of the budget, but if Obama isn’t even willing to cut one one-hundreth of 1 percent of federal spending for something that is non-vital to America, then the president is not serious about reducing spending at all.

If Obama is not serious about that, he is the wrong person for the job.

Let’s review:

♦ “Unchecked federal spending” “threatens our nation’s future well-being”

♦ A “debtor nation” should not spend money on “non vital” stuff, if it has to “borrow money from China to pay for it”

♦ Because Obama doesn’t  recognize what “non vital” stuff is and won’t therefore cut it out of the budget, “he is the wrong person for the job”

Got it? Okay. Now, we can proceed to this morning’s banner headline in the same paper that endorsed Mittens:

joplin globe headline on federal money

Just where, you might ask, will Joplin “get” all that dough? Oh, that’s easy:

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin will receive $113 million from a $125 million state grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for disaster recovery.

And:

HUD statements said the award came from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act that President Barack Obama signed Jan. 29 that designates $16 billion for U.S. disaster recovery.

“President Barack Obama signed…” Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. The scary socialist president sent our city some socialism-tainted simoleons.

Amazingly, Joplin’s city manager wasn’t expecting the windfall:

City Manager Mark Rohr said the grant was a surprise to city officials, who earlier had applied for $1.72 billion from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program for tornado recovery and received $45.2 million.

Rohr said city officials thought the $45 million award, made in January 2012, was the result of the application and did not know that more money would be on the way.

“We’re very pleased and grateful for the assistance we’ve gotten, and we intend to use the money wisely to help the city recover in the best way possible,” Rohr said.

The city manager didn’t exactly say this money was “vital” to the needs of Joplin, did he? In fact, he sort of sounded like he—we—had won the lottery.

Well, this liberal—and Joplin resident—says good for Joplin.

But conservative readers of the Joplin Globe, especially readers who lauded the paper’s endorsement of socialism-hating Romney, had every right to expect, upon reading this story, that the paper would publish an editorial this morning expressing grave concerns about all that “unchecked federal spending,” right?

I mean, the Globe told us that we should not borrow money from China to pay for “non vital” stuff because we are such a “debtor nation,” so logic would dictate that the paper tell the city manager to wrap up the money and send it right back to President Obama, right?

Wrong.

In today’s paper, there was no such send-the-money-back-to-the-treasury editorial. Nope. Nothing about unchecked federal spending, debtor nation, or China. And I would bet ten-thousand Romney dollars that there will never be such an editorial in the Joplin Globe. Never.

Oh, by the way, speaking of the money the feds—no, the good people of the United States—have sent here to J-Town since the tornado in 2011, the Globe reports:

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said the block grant raises the amount of federal funding Joplin has received to more than $350 million. 

I’m not a math whiz but I think that amounts to about $7,000 for every man, woman, child, and editorial writer in this Romney-for-president town.

Finally, to top off the amazing account of all that federal money rolling into the Republican-red, socialism-hating streets of Joplin, we have this from the Globe’s story:

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s office issued a statement saying that the award was the result of legislation Blunt sponsored that made the $45 million available to Joplin. He also has sought continued aid that is earmarked for the areas in most need, his staff said. Blunt, R-Mo., met at City Hall with Joplin and Duquesne officials within weeks after the May 2011 tornado to ask them what would be needed for recovery.

“When a disaster exceeds the ability of communities and states, the federal government has a responsibility to help people rebuild,” Blunt said in the statement. “I’m pleased these funds will continue to help local leaders, businesses and families in Missouri recover and reinvest for the future.”

If you made it through that without spewing up your breakfast—because you remember that small-government Roy Blunt voted against helping victims of Hurricane Sandy—then maybe you can agree with me that the headline of this story should have been:

Joplin Benefits From More Socialism, Thanks To Selective Socialist Senator Roy Blunt

Republicans Win And Democrats Lose As Journalists Peddle False Equivalence

Well, it worked. Paul Ryan’s extremist budget offering has done its job. Now, the mainstream press can do what it does best—peddle false equivalency—and Republicans will be set to win major concessions from Democrats.

Pursuing the appearance of neutrality to the point of absurdity, journalists can now compare Ryan’s grim and sinister and obviously stillborn budget plan to the fair and sensible and potentially fruitful budget plan put out by Senator Patty Murray and the Democrats in the Senate. And when they make that comparison, using absurdist neutrality as their guide, the result will look like this:

It’s clear that both House Republicans and Senate Democrats have decided to lead with their worst budget offers first.

That was how NBC’s Chuck Todd, my favorite of the mainstream journalists, began his analysis this morning of the politics of the latest budget war. Todd’s opening this morning on The Daily Rundown illustrates perfectly how successful was Paul Ryan’s tactic of putting out a budget only Ayn Rand could love.

Both budget offerings, you see, are equally bad. Both are “their worst…first.” Both sides are equally guilty of extremism. I promise you that will be the message you hear from the mainstream press from now until the end, if there is an end, of this process. As if there is an exact symmetry between the two, as if the Senate Democrats’ budget was just as extreme as that monstrosity Paul Ryan authored.

Chuck Todd’s analysis ignores the fact (even though he pointed out the fact on his show this morning) that the Democrats are offering a budget that is essentially balanced between spending cuts and revenue increases, and it ignores the fact (even though he also pointed this fact out too) that Ryan offered us all spending cuts with no new revenue.

Can’t you see the symmetry? The fiscal and moral equivalence? The Democrats give us a mix of spending cuts and higher taxes on the wealthy and the Republicans give us a mix of spending cuts and, uh, spending cuts, with lower tax rates for the wealthy. What dreadful nonsense.

In Todd’s mind, those two positions represent “their worst budget offers,” and that is how he, as well as his mainstream colleagues, will present it to news consumers. He also said this morning:

Neither budget seems to reflect the reality of where things are in D.C.

Mind you that the “reality” in D.C. is that Democrats control the United States Senate and the White House, which is two-thirds of the governing apparatus. Todd’s analysis seems to define reality in a way that ignores the last election and the Democrats’ standing both in Washington and in the country, and if Democrats seek to get a fair and sensible budget deal they are, in Todd’s estimation, simply asking too much.

That is why I suggested on Tuesday that Democrats use their budget to demand free health care and a free college education for everyone. That would have been roughly the extremist equivalent of what Ryan did and it would have been a better place to begin negotiations, rather than start on essentially Republican budget-cutting turf.

But Democrats didn’t do that. They offered a balanced approach, which is why Paul Ryan and the Republicans are more politically savvy than Patty Murray and the Democrats, and why Democrats always end up sacrificing more than they should to reach a deal.

Fortunately, although he has lately been meeting with Republican lawmakers, President Obama hasn’t yet lost his way. He told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos:

I think what’s important to recognize is that– we’ve already cut– $2.5– $2.7 trillion out of the deficit. If the sequester stays in, you’ve got over $3.5 trillion of deficit reduction already.

And, so, we don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt. In fact, for the next ten years, it’s gonna be in a sustainable place. The question is, can we do it smarter, can we do it better? And– you know, what I’m saying to them is I am prepared to do some tough stuff. Neither side’s gonna get 100%. That’s what the American people are lookin’ for. That’s what’s gonna be good for jobs. That’s what’s gonna be good for growth.

But ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide. It may be that ideologically, if their position is, “We can’t do any revenue,” or, “We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid,” if that’s the position, then we’re probably not gonna be able to get a deal.

obama and stephanopoulosHearing that was good news. And I heard other good news from the President, especially when he told Stephanopoulos—who like other mainstream  journalists has a major jones for the Republican talking point of a “balanced budget”—that,

No. We’re not gonna balance the budget in ten years because if you look at what Paul Ryan does to balance the budget, it means that you have to voucherize Medicare; you have to slash deeply into programs like Medicaid; you’ve essentially got to either tax middle-class families a lot higher than you currently are; or you can’t lower rates the way he’s promised. So, it’s really– you know, it– it’s a reprise of the same legislation–

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Balanced by any point?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: –that he’s put before. No. I think that there is a possibility. Look, balancing the budget in part depends on how fast you grow. You remember– you were in the Clinton administration. The reason that you guys balanced it was a combination of some tax hikes, some spending cuts, and the economy grew.

And, so– you know, my goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance. My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that we’re gonna be bringin’ in more revenue. If we’ve controlled spending and we’ve got a smart entitlement package, then potentially what you have is balance. But it’s not balance on the backs of, you know, the poor, the elderly, students who need student loans, families who’ve got disabled kids.

That’s not the right way to balance our budget.

And that, my friends, is how any discussion about the Ryan budget should end.

_________________________________

Here’s part of the opening segment from Wednesday’s The Daily Rundown on MSNBC, oozing with false equivalence:

Is The Joplin Globe Rising From The Dumb?

Remember when the Joplin Globe endorsed Mitt Romney? Of course you do. How could anyone forget, “Joplin Globe Doubles Down On Dumb And Endorses Romney” or the related, “The Joplin Globe’s Dumbest Editorial Of All Time” ?

And remember during the election when Republicans were openly calling Obama a socialist, and Romney, who didn’t want to directly call him one, suggested instead that the president “takes his political inspiration from Europe, and from the socialist-democrats in Europe” ? romney socialist adAnd remember a Romney campaign ad that The New Republic said linked “Obama with a triumvirate of famous socialists,” including the late Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara?

So, we had Republicans directly saying Obama was a socialist and Romney indirectly saying it and the Joplin Globe siding with Romney and endorsing him. It was enough to make a guy cancel his subscription.

Well, I don’t know exactly what energetic Democratic mole has dug into the hardened ground of the Joplin Globe editorial staff, but I applaud his or her efforts. Believe it or not, via an “Other Views” editorial written by the Scripps Howard News Service, the Globe published this sentence that could have been written by yours truly:

Those figures should give the lie to the charge that Obama is a socialist. If he is, he’s a very bad one.

“Those figures” were these figures:

While the private sector was adding 246,000 jobs in February, the public sector cut 10,000. Newsweek notes that since the spring of 2010, the private sector has created 6.35 million jobs; the public sector has cut 1.5 million jobs.

Let those numbers sink in. Government employment over the last three years has declined by 1.5 million. That’s 1.5 million Americans who could be working and spending and paying taxes and helping to reduce the deficit that has freaked out so many people, including the Joplin Globe editorial board.

Remapping Debate published an article in January (“The incredible shrinking federal workforce“) that examined the ratio of federal employees (federal only, mind you) to population, using the year 1978 as a basis. And get this: The population has grown 40% since 1978 and yet there are 20% fewer federal employees! If the the employment-to-population ratio were the same today as it was in 1978, there would be nearly 350,000 more Americans employed in the federal government. Let that number sink in, too, as you add it to the 1.5 million public sector jobs lost since 2010.

Finally, while you’re thinking about the incredible drag on the economy that a shrinking government workforce represents, keep in mind that it was the Joplin Globe that brought this fact to the attention of its many conservative readers, many of whom believe Barack Obama is a big-government-loving socialist. That is progress, people.

And speaking of the local paper’s progress, the Scripps Howard-Joplin Globe editorial actually made the point that there is “real progress” going on in the economy, even as “lawmakers lurch from one budget crisis to the next.”

Now, if the Globe will go all the way and start to acknowledge that those “lawmakers” responsible for all the lurching are Republican lawmakers, perhaps the paper can regain some of the credibility it lost by that very dumb Romney endorsement.

Even A Blind Rand Paul Finds A Nut Now And Then

Senator Rand Paul, as you all have seen or heard by now, is, as I write this, conducting an honest-to-goodness filibuster in the U.S. Senate over the nomination of John Brennan for Director of the CIA. Paul started his filibuster at 10:47am Central Standard Time this Wednesday.

Despite the fact that I dislike, rather strongly, Rand Paul, and despite the fact that he has said some dumb things during the time he has been speaking, I have exactly no problem with what he is doing, for a couple of reasons:

1) The filibuster should be conducted in the way Rand Paul is conducting it; that is, he is actually doing the (relatively) hard work of standing up and speaking, and speaking, and speaking, as opposed to just technically initiating a filibuster without the accompanying necessity of standing on the floor and paying the price—in terms of the sheer physical strain, as well as the public exposure—of his convictions.

2) His point for conducting the filibuster, as far as I can tell in the time I have listened to him, is a valid one. I admire anyone who is willing to stand up for hours upon hours in defense of a recognizably legitimate principle.

I will summarize his objection, the ostensible reason for his filibuster, by quoting something he said at 6:37 pm Central time—almost exactly eight hours after he began:

If you have a war that has no end, if you have a war that has no geographic limit, and then if you have strikes that have no constitutional bounds, basically what you have is an unlimited, imperial presidency.

I cannot and will not argue with that.

Now, I confess that a year ago to the day, I wrote about drone strikes on Americans in foreign lands (Can The Government Kill Citizens Overseas?), and I haven’t seen or read anything that would make me change my mind (reluctantly, I said “yes”).

But what Rand Paul is arguing, again, as far as I can tell between the bouts of nuttiness, is something different. He seems to be mostly concerned with a president’s authority to use drones, or presumably any other method, to kill Americans here, on American soil. And I can say that there is no way, under any set of normal circumstances, I would support using drones to kill Americans on American soil, without an independent due process of law. No way.

And I would expect Barack Obama, as our leader and as a Democrat, to feel the same way. I think he does, even if, just to protect his executive turf, he is somewhat reluctant to say so. And I think his Attorney General, Eric Holder, feels the same way. I believe Holder’s letter to Rand Paul, which you can see here, comes close to satisfying my concerns, since he writes:

It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

I say it comes close to satisfying my concerns because I think it could have been worded more clearly and more directly, sort of like this:

Senator Paul,

Unless there is a rare circumstance of an imminent catastrophic attack, such as happened on December 7, 1941, or on September 11, 2001, there is no way the Constitution permits the authorization or use of lethal military force on terrorist suspects on United States soil. None.

Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States

The problem with what Rand Paul is doing is not his message. It is the fact that such an otherwise silly man is delivering a message that merits our attention. And the fact that Senator Ted Cruz, a most disgusting and calculating opportunist from Texas—who does a mean impression of Joe McCarthy—is supporting Paul makes it all the worse.

But at the end of it all, what remains is a legitimate demand, by at least one member of the legislative branch, that its executive branch counterpart recognize the supremacy of the Constitution in its treatment of American citizens here at home.

And, as much as it pains me to say so, Rand Paul is doing a good thing in this case.

Obama: “What More Do You Think I Should Do?”

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis understands that my biggest problem, bordering on hysteria, with the mainstream press is its members’ strict adherence to the mindless dogma that, directly or indirectly, creeps into nearly every story about the political dysfunction in Washington: Both sides are guilty.

On Friday, President Obama spoke to reporters about the sequester. This odd but entertaining press conference perfectly illustrated just why it is that Republicans don’t pay a steep political price for paralyzing Congress and slowing down the economic recovery.

The President opened with a statement that was over 1000 words long, praising the American people for their strength and resiliency, which they will need to keep the economic recovery going, given that they won’t get any help from the Republican Party.

Mr. Obama labeled sequestration—now in effect—as “a series of dumb, arbitrary cuts” that were both “unnecessary” and “inexcusable.” He said the “slow grind” of the sequester will do damage to the economy, intensifying over time, killing 750,000 jobs and shaving more than “one-half of 1 percent” from our GDP.

And guess what? President Obama, because someone has to tell folks what is really going on, told folks the truth. He told them that whatever pain they may suffer over the coming weeks and months has a direct and unmistakable cause:

It’s happening because of a choice that Republicans in Congress have made.

It couldn’t have been expressed any clearer than that. Republicans have made a choice: to once again put the interests of wealthy taxpayers— disproportionately the beneficiaries of most of the tax code loopholes that the President wants to close—ahead of the interests of the country at large. That’s it. That’s what’s happening.

So, what do you suppose was the first question that was asked at the press conference? Come on, you know by now:

How much responsibility do you feel like you bear for these cuts taking effect?

Yep, that was the first question. It was asked by Julie Pace of the Associated Press. And I’m sure if any other reporter were given the chance to ask the first question, it would have sounded much like hers, perhaps like this:

Mr. President, it just can’t be all the other guy’s fault, right? That just can’t be because we in the press know that both sides are to blame for what’s happening.  Isn’t that right, Mr. President? So, come on and tell us how much of the fault is yours. Come on, you can do it. Tell us.

To his credit, the President fought back hard against the notion that he should share the blame for what is going on in our government. Using yet another 1000 words, he told Julie Pace that he had already signed off on deficit-reducing cuts, to the tune of $2.5 trillion. He told her he was “prepared to take on the problem where it exists — on entitlements — and do some things that my own party really doesn’t like — if it’s part of a broader package of sensible deficit reduction.”

And he reiterated what he had said earlier:

But what is true right now is that the Republicans have made a choice that maintaining an ironclad rule that we will not accept an extra dime’s worth of revenue makes it very difficult for us to get any larger comprehensive deal.  And that’s a choice they’re making.  They’re saying that it’s more important to preserve these tax loopholes than it is to prevent these arbitrary cuts.

There’s that word “choice” again. Republicans have made a choice. Republicans have made a choice, Julie.

President Obama ended his answer to her question with this:

…the one key to this whole thing is trying to make sure we keep in mind who we’re here for.  We are not here for ourselves, we’re not here for our parties, we’re not here to advance our electoral prospects.  We’re here for American families who have been getting battered pretty good over the last four years, are just starting to see the economy improve; businesses are just starting to see some confidence coming back.  And this is not a win for anybody, this is a loss for the American people.

And, again, if we step back and just remind ourselves what it is we’re supposed to be doing here, then hopefully common sense will [win] out in the end.

Now, what do you suppose Julie Pace followed up with? Yep, you got it:

It sounds like you’re saying that this is a Republican problem and not one that you bear any responsibility for.

What do you say to someone like that? What to you say to a journalist who insists that no matter what the evidence says, she must adhere to the both-sides-are-guilty dogma at all costs? If she thought the President deserved some blame, she should have asked him about something specific she thought he did to deserve that blame. Like: “You remember that time you hid John Boehner’s tanning lotion at the golf course? Is that why he won’t make a deal?” Or something like that.

But you see, Julie Pace was not asking that question thinking that the President would actually answer it. She wasn’t expecting him to say,

You know, Julie, I’ve come to a conclusion. I guess I am to blame for what’s going on in this town. Yeah, I’m to blame. God gave me pigmented skin and my parents gave me a funny name and an exotic background. I really had no business coming to Washington and disturbing all these nice white folks in Congress.

What was I thinking?

cool obamaNo, Julie Pace knew Mr. Obama wouldn’t say anything like that or otherwise take the blame for the dysfunction that is threatening to ruin his second term, not to mention the country. But she knew that asking that question is part of the Beltway press liturgy. It’s how journalists these days prove they belong. She, by God, is a true-believer in the both-sides-are-guilty dogma.

The President responded to her question in this unusual way:

MR. OBAMA: Well, Julie, give me an example of what I might do.

JULIE PACE:  I’m just trying to clarify your statement.

MR. OBAMA:  Well, no, but I’m trying to clarify the question.  What I’m suggesting is, I’ve put forward a plan that calls for serious spending cuts, serious entitlement reforms, goes right at the problem that is at the heart of our long-term deficit problem.  I’ve offered negotiations around that kind of balanced approach.  And so far, we’ve gotten rebuffed because what Speaker Boehner and the Republicans have said is, we cannot do any revenue, we can’t do a dime’s worth of revenue.

So what more do you think I should do?  Okay, I just wanted to clarify.  (Laughter.)  Because if people have a suggestion, I’m happy to — this is a room full of smart folks.

After that the President turned to another reporter, but he had made his point: “What more do you think I should do?” A damn good question. And all the people claiming he is to blame for what we see should have to answer it.

A little bit later, the President had this strange exchange with Jessica Yellin of CNN:

YELLIN: Mr. President, to your question, what could you do — first of all, couldn’t you just have them down here and refuse to let them leave the room until you have a deal?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I mean, Jessica, I am not a dictator.  I’m the President.  So, ultimately, if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say, we need to go to catch a plane, I can’t have Secret Service block the doorway, right?  So –

YELLIN: But isn’t that part of leadership?

Ah, there it was. The B-side of the both-sides-are-guilty tune. The President, don’t you know, should lead. That’s what leaders do, right? They lead. If he were leading, there’d be a deal. Every journalist, especially those who follow the lead of Bob Woodward, knows that. And if they don’t know that, Republicans are happy to tell them. Republican leaders say it all the time: There’s no deal because President Obama has failed as a leader.

Apparently the President should somehow find a way to make Republican leaders, and those they lead, bend to his will. He should find a way to make them do what they have pledged not to do before God and Grover Norquist.

But since the President ruled out a “Jedi mind meld,” perhaps he should just give them what they want, give in to their demands, pay them the ransom they are asking for. Because that is the only “deal” Republicans are willing to make. Is surrendering to uncompromising zealots the answer to the question Mr. Obama posed to Julie Pace: “What more do you think I should do?”

Fortunately, Republicans won’t get the ransom they’re asking for. They won’t get the deal they want from this president. You know why? Because there is more to being a leader than simply making a deal. Sometimes leadership means not making a deal, when the only deal to be made would be a bad deal.

And President Obama, during Friday’s amazing press conference, assured us he won’t enter into a one-sided bargain with Republican hostage-takers:

But what I can’t do is ask middle-class families, ask seniors, ask students to bear the entire burden of deficit reduction when we know we’ve got a bunch of tax loopholes that are benefiting the well-off and the well-connected, aren’t contributing to growth, aren’t contributing to our economy.  It’s not fair.  It’s not right.  The American people don’t think it’s fair and don’t think it’s right.

Government Jobs Are People Too

I know I posted a segment from The Rachel Maddow Show earlier today, but I just have to post the segment below because it is the best 8 1/2 minutes you will spend, in terms of hearing a rebuttal to what right-wingers claim both about the nature of government employment and the alleged radical nature of President Obama and his administration.

Before you watch the segment, here is a graphic St. Rachel uses to make the point that what was standard practice in fighting recessions in the past has been turned on its head during the Obama presidency. The graph plots the change in government employment during the 1981 recession when Reagan was president, the 1990 recession when George H.W. Bush was president, the 2001 recession when George W. Bush was president, and the Great Recession when the Scary Negro socialist/communist was president:

government employment and recession

As you can clearly see, Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II did not seek to shrink government, and government employment, when the economy slowed down. That would have been stupid. And neither did President Obama initially seek to eliminate government jobs. Part of his stimulus plan put in place early in 2009 was designed to help states keep teachers, cops, firemen, and other government workers on the job. But that stimulus, much maligned by Republicans as a “failure,” is long gone. And nothing like it is coming back.

Here is the St. Rachel segment, which you should commit to memory, especially those of you who have hard-headed conservatives in your midst:

The Republican Party Crackup, Presented By Rachel Maddow

No one on television quite ties it all together like the charming St. Rachel:

The President Remembers Joplin

The night of President Obama’s State of the Union speech, Ozark Billy Long, my congressman, greeted the President as he made his way up to the podium. No telling how long Ozark Billy waited to get the seat he had, but I am sure it was worth it, since he is such a great admirer of the President.

He’s not? Oh, well. In any case, here’s a picture of their encounter:

obama greets billy long at sotu

Long tweeted (while Obama was on the podium receiving an ovation before he began his speech) the following:

billy long tweet from sotu

On May 22, 2011, a tornado ravaged Joplin and killed 161 people. A week later, President Obama, Governor Jay Nixon, Senator Claire McCaskill and Billy Long visited our devastated city. The President said then:

This is not just your tragedy. This is a national tragedy and that means there will be a national response.

There was. Still is.

At a memorial service President Obama said:

 I can promise you your country will be there with you every single step of the way. We will be with you every step of the way.  We’re not going anywhere. The cameras may leave.  The spotlight may shift.  But we will be with you every step of the way until Joplin is restored and this community is back on its feet.  We’re not going anywhere.

The President came back to Joplin in May of 2012 to speak to graduates of Joplin High School. Some local conservatives thought he was doing so as a campaign event, even though there was no chance of picking up any votes in this Obama-despising part of the country. Indeed, the locals gave him a whopping 28.3% of the vote.

Obama told the graduates,

Now, just as you’ve learned the goodness of people, you’ve also learned the power of community.  And you’ve heard from some of the other speakers how powerful that is.  And as you take on the roles of co-worker and business owner — neighbor, citizen — you’ll encounter all kinds of divisions between groups, divisions of race and religion and ideology.  You’ll meet people who like to disagree just for the sake of being disagreeable. You’ll meet people who prefer to play up their differences instead of focusing on what they have in common, where they can cooperate. But you’re from Joplin.  So you will always know that it’s always possible for a community to come together when it matters most. 

On Tuesday, before the State of the Union Address, President Obama saw Billy Long and remembered Joplin. Good for him. Good for Joplin. And good for Billy Long for telling us about it.

Here is a short clip I put on YouTube of the President greeting Ozark Billy:

 

The Republican War On Class

Contemporary conservatives are a classy bunch:

♦ One of them, a Texas congressman, invited a vulgar, Obama-hating gun freak to the State of the Union address to provide, he explained, “balance.” The vulgar, Obama-hating gun freak then said he could not offer a reaction to the speech because, “I’m supposed to keep my pants on.” Now, that’s balance.

♦ Another conservative, a well-known and well-paid whore for the gun industry, urged people to buy even more guns just in case there is a “fiscal collapse” brought on by President Obama. If that sounds familiar, it is exactly the rationale of Nancy Lanza, a “prepper” who feared an economic collapse and kept several guns in her home to defend herself. Unfortunately, her disturbed son shot her in her sleep and proceeded to Sandy Hook Elementary School to kill six-year-olds and teachers before putting a gun to his own head.

♦ Two insanely-conservative U.S. Senators—I repeat: U.S. Senators—have essentially accused President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, former Republican Chuck Hagel, of being in bed with foreign terrorists. And 41 Republican Senators, including Missouri’s Roy Blunt—who had previously indicated Hagel should not be filibustered—supported a historic filibuster to keep Hagel’s nomination from coming to a vote, a vote he would otherwise clearly win.

Hagel’s offense, as John McCain eventually admitted, was pissing off his fellow Republicans many years ago by criticizing George W. Bush and the surge in Iraq. Republicans can forget all the damage they have done to the economy and all the debt they have racked up, but they can never forget one of their own who told the truth about them.

♦ Three Fox “News” hosts mocked Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old African-American woman who, because of Republican voter suppression tactics, waited hours in line to vote last November, with one of the hosts saying,

What was she the victim of? Rashes on the bottom of her feet?

♦ A Republican congressman from Georgia, seeking an open U.S. Senate seat in 2014, has bragged in a fundraising letter about his insight into Barack Obama:

I was the first member of Congress to call him a socialist who embraces Marxist-Leninist policies like government control of health care and redistribution of wealth.

Turns out the congressman is a liar, but not for saying Obama is a socialist who embraces Marxist-Leninist policies—heck, we all know he is—but because the congressman was not “the first” to say so.

♦ A big-time Tea Party group, FreedomWorks, which recently paid its former chairman Dick Armey $8 million bucks to go away, produced a video with a segment that featured two female interns, one pretending to be a panda and one pretending to be Hillary Clinton. The panda-intern was, reportedly, “performing oral sex on the then-secretary of state.”

Classy stuff. Real family values. Onward Christian soldiers!

The State Of The Union, In Three Speeches

As always, I recommend actually reading President Obama’s speech from Tuesday night.

There was simply too much in it to absorb fully with the eyes and ears. HuffPo did a pretty good job of summarizing it:

huffpo sotu

Overlooked in all the post-speech coverage I saw was the brilliant opening:

Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress.”   “It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union — to improve it is the task of us all.”  

Progress and improvement. That was what President Obama’s speech was all about. And he called upon Congress to help, but the reason Congress won’t help much is because of what we saw and heard in the second, then the third, speech of the night, given by Marco Rubio and Ron Paul, both of whom on the day they gave their speeches voted against the Violence Against Women Act, for God’s sake.

Like his political philosophy, Rubio’s palate was dry, causing an embarrassing dip for a drink worthy of any amateur on YouTube making his first video. His speech, really an audition for 2016 GOP primary voters, was mostly warmed-over Ryanism, with an ethnic twist.

The straw man Rubio vanguished last night is one Republicans have murdered many times:

This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

That Rubio believes such a thing I don’t doubt. That he expects a majority of Americans, many of them victims of genuinely reckless behavior in the financial industry, to believe it, I do doubt. Most of the true-believing government-shrinkers in the country have now given up on selling the nonsense that do-gooders in government caused the Great Recession.

Rubio plodded on, though, confident that his target audience—both softcore and hardcore teapartiers—would find his argument convincing, even though they are already convinced:

More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back.

More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.

And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty. Because more government breeds complicated rules and laws that a small business can’t afford to follow.

The real uncertainty, of course, has been created by Republicans in Congress. And that uncertainty hasn’t been created by “more government,” but by dysfunctional government: That government is best that governs chaotically.

And speaking of chaos, we have the mind of Rand Paul. He argued in his speech for “a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution!” (yep, that exclamation mark is in the original text). He said he “will propose a five-year balanced budget.” But later added:

We must stand firm. We must say NO to any MORE tax hikes!

Those caps and punctuation are, once again, in the original. This guy even SHOUTS when he WRITES!

The muddled and immature philosophy he gets so excited about is this:

Only through lower taxes, less regulation and more freedom will the economy begin to grow again.

An opthmalmologist by training, Paul has taken to practicing short-sighted voodoo economics. He’s sticking pins in America, hoping this time the voodoo ritual will work. But he’s confused. About the GOP he says,

Our party is the party of growth, jobs and prosperity, and we will boldly lead on these issues.

Huh? Earlier in his speech he informed us that,

Both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every taxpayer loses…I will work with anyone on either side of the aisle who wants to cut spending. But in recent years, there has been no one to work with.

No one. Just him. Just him and his voodoo.

The Tea Party, Ted Nugent, and The Republican Renewal

Tonight, Marco Rubio, a far right, Tea Party Hispanic Republican, will act as first responder to any fire Barack Obama’s State of the Union address might ignite.

This morning on The Daily Rundown on MSNBC I heard a lovely Republican pollster, Kristen Soltis Anderson, exalt Rubio this way:kristen anderson

I’m looking forward to him getting this national exposure. I think he’s the right person at the right time to lead the Republican Party into this period of renewal.

Period of renewal? Rubio is the leader of a Republican renewal? The man who had to prostrate himself before Rush Limbaugh’s prostate in order to get the broadcaster’s blessing on immigration reform? That Rubio? Come on, lovely Republican pollster. Slurping perspiration from between Limbaugh’s butt cheeks isn’t Republican renewal, it’s old-school Republican politics. Rush was Tea Party before Tea Party was and wasn’t cool.

And speaking of the imaginary Republican renewal, tonight Senator Rand Paul will also give a response to Barack Obama, a president so politically hot he needs two Republican first responders to put out his fire.

Rand Paul, whose Tea Party extremism was first exposed on television by Rachel Maddow, recently fantasized about being president, which is one of the scariest thoughts in the world, next to being struck by a beam of gamma rays. No, wait. I’ll take the gamma rays.Rand Paul

Pretending to be president wasn’t the only time Paul fantasized about being in charge. In 2006, he imagined himself being the governor of Kentucky. And, to boot, he was the governor of Kentucky with an ethics scandal. His solution: he would pardon himself! Case closed, people!

Marco Rubio and Rand Paul will not, however, be the best representatives of the Republican renewal on display tonight. That honor belongs to Texas congressman Steve Stockman.

Stockman is the one who made news recently by offering to do the GOP’s dirty work of impeaching President Obama over his executive orders related to gun violence. That, of course, made him a Fox “News” hero. Tonight he will attend the SOTU address accompanied by another proud Republican renewalist and Vietnam War draft-evader, Ted Nugent.

Now, I’ve written about NRA board member Nugent before and offered numerous quotes from him that prove he has been infected with an extra-terrestrial form of Obama- Clinton-hate. Here is an example from 2007, addressed to dupes dumb enough to pay money to watch him perform:

I think that Barack Hussein Obama should be put in jail. It is clear that Barack Hussein Obama is a communist. Mao Tse Tung lives and his name is Barack Hussein Obama. This country should be ashamed. I wanna throw up. …Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.

From a Detroit radio interview in 1992:

Foreigners are assholes; foreigners are scum; I don’t like ‘em; I don’t want ‘em in this country; I don’t want ‘em selling me doughnuts; I don’t want ‘em pumping my gas; I don’t want ‘em downwind of my life-OK?  So anyhow-and I’m dead serious…

From an interview in 1994:

About Hillary Clinton: “You probably can’t use the term ‘toxic cunt’ in your magazine, but that’s what she is. Her very existence insults the spirit of individualism in this country. This bitch is nothing but a two-bit whore for Fidel Castro.”

About national health care: “The government must stay out of my life. If there are weenies who are in the liability column of our nation, tough shit.”

About Social Security: “To be forced to have a Social Security number in this country is illegal. It’s against the Constitution. I can’t tell you the specific language, but I reviewed it, and I know it’s illegal. The clusterfuck that is Social Security insults people who work hard for their living.

In our culture, such people as Ted Nugent are normally promoted by sleazy characters out to make a quick buck from a freak willing to be publicly outrageous for fifteen minutes.

But tonight, at the State of the Union address, a Republican congressman will apparently show up with Ted Nugent, a man who was recently investigated by the Secret Service, on his arm.

And you will not hear one word from Republican leadership in the House or Senate or anywhere else. That, my friends, is the real Republican renewal.

A renewal of the GOP’s vows to extremism.

_____________________________________________________________

ted nugent

Why Conservatives Need Rush Limbaugh’s Permission To Pass Immigration Reform

There are a lot of conservatives out there in denial about the racist component of the fierce and sometimes weird opposition to President Obama. I’ve written about it often, and while I obviously don’t think all or even most of the opponents of Barack Obama are outright racists, there is a rather large group of folks on the right, the white right, who resent the browning of America.

Along those lines, Mother Jones, which has been doing great journalistic work, published today this article:

mother jones and white nationalists

You can read the article and draw your own conclusions, but I have argued that a lot of the fuel that fires up the irrational hate-Obama movement is a fear that white culture—whatever that is—is being overrun by a foreign one, or many foreign ones.

Defending a white nationalist group, one of the conservatives featured in the Mother Jones piece, James B. Taylor, said:

You’ve got the NAACP and B’nai B’rith. Why not something for white people?

That nationalist group that Taylor was defending is this one:

npi

Here is part of the NPI’s “about” page:

npi about

Look at that nice white American family, those beautiful white children. The white culture these images are meant to represent is what a lot of people on the right are fighting for, indeed, have been fighting for long before anyone ever heard of Barack Obama.

And although the cultural angst that some white folks feel didn’t start with our black president, unlike any American president before him he has the pigmented credentials that serve so well to feed the fear and paranoia that is today a part of the conservative movement.

Speaking of that fear and paranoia, isn’t it ironic that Republican Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents were Cubans and whose ethnicity Republicans are strategically, if not cynically, using to appeal to a broader base of Americans, today had to go before none other than Rush Limbaugh, the whitest of white Obama-hating conservatives, to essentially get his blessing on immigration reform.

And Limbaugh during his interview on Tuesday seemed to give Rubio permission by saying,

Well, what you are doing is admirable and noteworthy.

Ain’t that nice?

But Limbaugh asked him after that :

LIMBAUGH: This legislation that you’ve admitted is not written, but you’re here on the radio today, you’ve been doing a lot of media, who are you trying to reach with this?

RUBIO:  In terms of the –

LIMBAUGH:  The bill.  You talking Hispanics, illegals, are you talking the American people, who are you talking to?

Ahh. You see? “The American people” and “Hispanics” are not really the same thing in the mind of Rush Limbaugh, a man so powerful in the Republican Party that its most prominent Hispanic leader feels the need to get the radio host’s permission to pass immigration laws.

False Equivalence And The Immigration Issue

I have heard a lot of talk about President Obama’s interview with The New Republic, but little of it has focused on his answer to a question about the “nastiness” that has  characterized politics in Washington:

I think the issue is that we have these institutional barriers that prevent what the American people want from happening. Some of them are internal to Congress, like the filibuster in the Senate. Some of them have to do with our media and what gets attention. Nobody gets on TV saying, “I agree with my colleague from the other party.” People get on TV for calling each other names and saying the most outlandish things.

Even on issues like the response to Hurricane Sandy, Chris Christie was getting hammered by certain members of his own party and media outlets for cooperating with me to respond to his constituents. That gives you an indication of how difficult I think the political environment has become for a lot of these folks. And I think what will change that is politicians seeing more upside to cooperation than downside, and right now that isn’t the case. Public opinion is going to be what changes that.

In the follow up, TNR’s Franklin Foer rightly stated:

FF: When you talk about Washington, oftentimes you use it as a way to describe this type of dysfunction. But it’s a very broad brush. It can seem as if you’re apportioning blame not just to one party, but to both parties—

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, no, let me be clear. There’s not a—there’s no equivalence there. In fact, that’s one of the biggest problems we’ve got in how folks report about Washington right now, because I think journalists rightly value the appearance of impartiality and objectivity. And so the default position for reporting is to say, “A plague on both their houses.” On almost every issue, it’s, “Well, Democrats and Republicans can’t agree”—as opposed to looking at why is it that they can’t agree. Who exactly is preventing us from agreeing?

How gratifying that was to read. Imagine: The President isn’t as ignorant as some folks thought he was on the issue of both-sides-do-it journalism. He’s a pretty smart guy after all!

Yes, public opinion is the only way to change “the political environment.” And, yes, journalists play the lazy game of telling the public that both sides are equally guilty of the dysfunction we see.

But sometimes journalists don’t take the lazy way out and blame both parties. There is no better example of that than the immigration issue.  USA Today reports:

As President Obama prepares to lay out his immigration plan during a speech in Las Vegas on Tuesday, a group of bipartisan senators has reached agreement on a framework to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.

One doesn’t read very often that “a group of bipartisan senators” have reached agreement on anything because, well, Republicans have taken the bi out of bipartisan. So, why the change of mind on the immigration issue? I’ll let John McCain, making his trillionth appearance on a Sunday TV talk show, tell you:

Well, look, I’ll give you a little straight talk. Look at the last election. Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours, for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that.

McCain, of course, was for comprehensive immigration reform before he was against it before he was for it, so he should know why it is that Republicans have come to the table ready to deal. It isn’t because they have suddenly swelled up with compassion.

No, as President Obama said, public opinion changes things and there is no better snapshot of public opinion than an election. And the one issue where one could find good reporting—that is, explaining to people what was really happening in Congress—during the last election was on the issue of immigration. Democrats hammered Republicans on this issue and, for once, journalists didn’t engage in any false equivalence.

It was clear who was obstructing progress on immigration in Washington and it was clear that the GOP presidential candidate took a hard line on the issue because the extremists in his party would have it no other way.

And thus it was clear to the electorate, that browning and beautiful swarm of voters, who the culprits were. That, and only that, is why we finally see Republicans acting on the issue.

The lesson in all this is that if Democrats will keep hammering Republicans on their party’s dangerous hostage-taking budget strategy—and if President Obama will lead the way and keep reminding journalists that both sides are not equally guilty—then we may be able to correct at least the most destabilizing form of dysfunction in our country’s capital.

As the President told The New Republic:

Until Republicans feel that there’s a real price to pay for them just saying no and being obstructionist, you’ll probably see at least a number of them arguing that we should keep on doing it. It worked for them in the 2010 election cycle, and I think there are those who believe that it can work again. I disagree with them, and I think the cost to the country has been enormous.

Daddies Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Have Brain Damage

By now all you football fans out there (and I was one of you until the Patriots lost) have seen or heard about the following admonition by President Obama, which he offered in an interview with The New Republic:

I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football.

The President’s accompanying reasoning was entirely sound, no matter how it must have made NFL gazillionaires, who are starting to pay for the long-term health effects of their game, cringe.

But, ultimately, the lucrative NFL product, as well as the money-making product of big-time college programs, depends on millions of American fathers (and many mothers, too) bringing their little boys to youth football practice and making sure they pound the hell out of each other.nfl brain injuries

Thus, to the extent that Mr. Obama may have made a few of those parents think about what repeated head-crashing, not to mention bone-shattering and ligament-ripping, may mean in terms of their kids long-term health, he has done the country a great service.

I doubt, though, that many in this football-crazed country will listen.

A Creed, A Little Girl, And A Call To Action

Conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer isn’t right very often, but he did understand at least part of the significance of Barack Obama’s second inaugural speech:

In 1981, in his inaugural address within two minutes, Reagan had declared that government is not the solution, government is the problem. Today’s inaugural address was a rebuke to that entire idea.

The truth is that “that entire idea” of government being the problem not the solution was never actually a very powerful idea in practice, since under Reagan, and the two Republican presidents after him, government, and government debt, grew exponentially.

But the idea that government is the problem has lived on in the heads of conservatives like Charles Krauthammer and others who cherish the myth that America is a “center-right” country just waiting for another Reagan to baptize it anew in a bath of regressive radicalism.

The election last November, however, showed that Americans, at least a majority of them, have found—rediscovered really—another religion, and from America’s national pulpit Barack Obama offered them a liturgy that better reflects where we are as a country, as a people.obama swearing in

Strategically, he launched the central theme of his speech from a Reaganesque “skepticism of central authority,” saying that we have not “succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone.” Upon the solid rock of historical American attributes, he rebuilt the idea that gave us the New Deal:

Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character. 

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.

Collective action. That phrase must still be ringing in the ears of the right this morning, especially those who thought candidate Obama’s assertion that “you didn’t build that” was a revealing slip-of-the-tongue that would be his downfall.

But a reelected President Obama refused to back down from the idea that collective action is required if we mean to keep the individual freedoms we have:

For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.  No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.  Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.  

We are made for this moment, and we will seize it,” the President said, “so long as we seize it together.” And to demonstrate how this call to collective action—a call that is really as old as this republic—is a requirement to preserve individual freedom, he said,

We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.  

little girlThat little girl would know nothing of genuine individual liberty if she remained gripped by “the bleakest poverty.” Hope is a liberator. Hope that hard work will bring some degree of prosperity is a chain-breaking force. The calls for “smaller government,” of a shrinking vision of America, would almost guarantee that little girl a long night of un-American dreams, a life of despair.

We need “a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American,” said the President, which “will give real meaning to our creed.” And on that notion he reassures those who hear the voices of conservatives eager to balance our budget by cutting social insurance:

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity.  We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.  But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. 

We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few.  We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm.  The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us.  They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.  

Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are “commitments we make to each other.” They are part of the social contract that paradoxically makes this a free society, collective obligations that liberate individuals to enjoy at least a “basic measure of security and dignity.”

Invoking “the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal” and referencing “Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall,” President Obama, again from his secular pulpit, called us to action:

That is our generation’s task — to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.

The values we—liberals and conservatives—celebrate are diminished, they are far less noble, if they are not real to that “little girl born into the bleakest poverty.” And our task, the President said, is to make them real to her and not argue over the abstract:

Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.  

For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.  We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall. 

Seen that way, seen as an ongoing and imperfect task to make our founding creed of human equality real to all, rather than an epic ideological war, our work seems less daunting, the future less foreboding.  I can’t think of a better use for an inaugural address, here in our times, than that.

And if President Obama’s speech was also a devastating “rebuke” of Ronald Reagan’s mistaken idea that government is our problem, then all the better.

second inaugural

“We Don’t Benefit From Ignorance”

President Obama’s remarks today on the “common sense” things that need to be done “to help prevent mass shootings” and “reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country” included simple quotations from selected kids, followed by these declarative statements:

This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.

This generation, of course, will be judged for what it does or, more likely, for what it doesn’t do, in response to what we have seen so many times, most recently in Newtown, Connecticut.

Only the most unrepentant reactionary would reject the idea that we need to change, to change our approach, to change our thinking, to ultimately change our laws to confront the violent reality we see.

Not only did President Obama propose legislation — “a universal background check”; “a ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines” — he also signed directives that will help professionals make us a little safer.

All good, all necessary. But what may have the most long-term effect, in terms of reducing the violence we have seen, and what I have yet to hear anyone discuss, is found in these remarks by the President:

And while year after year those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to de-fund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it.

And Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds. We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.

We don’t benefit from ignorance.” No, as a society, we don’t benefit from ignorance. But some among us do benefit from it, like, say, manufacturers of assault weapons sold to the public or purveyors of ridiculously violent video games. And that’s why some oppose using science — the only reliable guide we have to problem solving — to try to find out what causes so much of the violence we see in our culture.

As a civilization, science is our friend, ignorance our enemy. But as we shall soon see when Congress takes up legislation to make us a more sane, more civil society, ignorance has many friends.

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