The Triangulation Has Begun

“I hate to keep repeating myself, but to have the kind of relief the country needs, I think we change the government. Change the Senate, change the presidency.”

—Mitch McConnell, November 7, 2013

I recently wrote a piece on what I said will be the Republican establishment’s strategy to win general elections against Democrats: triangulation. They will try to make voters believe that they occupy the middle ground between those crazy teapartiers, who want to deconstruct the present government, and those nutty left-wingers, who want to construct an even bigger government.

Well, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the first arrow out of his triangulation quiver today, via Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column:

“The most important election yesterday wasn’t the governor of New Jersey and it wasn’t the governor of Virginia, it was the special election for Congress in South Alabama, where a candidate who said the shutdown was a great idea, the president was born in Kenya, and that he opposed Speaker Boehner came in second.” The victory of a more electable Republican, is significant, Mr. McConnell says. To govern, parties must win. To win, parties must “run candidates that don’t scare the general public, [and] convey the impression that we could actually be responsible for governing, you can trust us—we’re adults here, we’re grown-ups.”

McConnell, who is up for reelection in 2014, confidently says he is “gonna be the Republican nominee next year” in a race that would pit him against Kentucky’s Democratic secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has been raising a lot of dough for the battle. In Noonan’s column, McConnell shrewdly went after the Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former senator and unrepentant teapartier Jim DeMint, for spending a lot of money attacking Republicans like him and for doing so “in obvious coordination with Harry Reid’s super PAC.”

And McConnell has obviously figured that his primary campaign opponent, bidnessman Matt Bevin, who is supported by Tea Party groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, is best dealt with by painting him and his supporters as irresponsible people who can’t win a general election because the public doesn’t trust them to be grown-ups and govern.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has also stepped up the rhetoric against extremist groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund and the consulting firms that work with them. The New York Times recently reported:

“We’re not going to do business with people who profit off of attacking Republicans,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the committee. “Purity for profit is a disease that threatens the Republican Party.”

Feeling that threat from the anti-establishment extremists, the establishment extremists—who want all of the same things that their zealous Republican brothers want—are now fully arming themselves in an attempt to convince Americans that they are the middle-ground answer to the problem posed by people who don’t want to govern at all and people who want to govern too much.

My point in all this is that Democrats should not just sit back and enjoy the Republican Civil War, delightfully tempting as that is. We have to keep reminding people that even though Mitch McConnell and some other Republicans seem to have learned their lesson about courting and coddling the zealots in the Tea Party, the only difference between the establishment and the zealots is that the zealots are at least honest about what they want to do.

[Photo:Getty Images]

Surreality

How surreal it all is:

♦ First, there was teapartier Sen. Jim DeMint’s announcement of his new gig as president of the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank. That’s “think” tank. You know, where real thinking is supposed to happen. DeMint, though, first publicly explained his new thinking job on Rush Limbaugh’s show, where thinking goes to die.

♦ Then there was Sen. Mitch McConnell, who tried to embarrass Democrats by proposing a vote—an up or down vote without a filibuster—on legislation that would allow President Obama to extend the debt limit all by himself, without first getting congressional approval. McConnell obviously thought Harry Reid would nix the idea. But Reid embraced it, which caused the creepy McConnell to have to essentially filibuster his own bill. Yes. He proposed something and then said he would filibuster his own proposal.

♦ All of which caused Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, who at the time was acting as Presiding Officer over the floor exchange between McConnell and Reid, to let slip from her astonished mouth: “Got whiplash!

♦ And speaking of Claire McCaskill, now it turns out that her election opponent, Todd Akin, actually received secret last-minute cash—$760,000—from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which had publicly pledged not to support the evangelical pseudo-gynecologist.

♦ Then there is the prospect that a Democratic administration, one led by a man who conservative Republicans have determined is a wildly radical leftist, is, in the words of The New York Times:

considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.

Yes, President Obama, Choomer-in-Chief, might actually put the kibosh on cannabis lovers.

♦ Then there was the distasteful Ann Coulter explaining to the even more distasteful Sean Hannity that Republicans lost the election and they should let taxes on the rich go up.

♦ Then, just when we thought Republicans were coming around to the idea that the rich would have to cough up more dough, The New York Times tells us that a significant number of rich folks will still be able to avoid them.

♦ Then there is today’s jobs report. While most experts expected the number of jobs created last month to be restrained, mainly due to Superstorm Sandy, the jobs were actually up. Up enough to drop the unemployment rate to 7.7%, its lowest mark in four years. There were 146,000 jobs added.

♦ In the mean time, right in the middle of all the muddle about fiscal cliff-diving, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman says there is no “fiscal crisis,” only a “job crisis.” He says we should spend more not less:

So why aren’t we helping the unemployed? It’s not because we can’t afford it. Given those ultralow borrowing costs, plus the damage unemployment is doing to our economy and hence to the tax base, you can make a pretty good case that spending more to create jobs now would actually improve our long-run fiscal position.

♦ Finally, the guy who killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin is, uh, suing NBC. George Zimmerman alleges,

NBC News saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain.

In the mean time, Trayvon Martin doesn’t get to sue anybody.

Remarks And Asides

It may be a while before Turd Blossom, Karl Rove, can again bloom on Fox “News.”

According to New York magazine, honcho Roger Ailes has put out the word that Rove and the Toesucker, Dick Morris, can’t be booked on any segment without permission from the top.

Rove and Morris have done something that up until now only Glenn Beck could pull off: embarrass Fox executives. Congratulations, boys!

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Dick Armey, former congressman and current Tea Party jerk, has taken his toys—and a cool $8 million—and left Freedom Works, the completely phony “grassroots” reactionary group. Nobody knows why Dick bugged out, and the point is, nobody really cares. We’re just glad the Tea Party is disintegrating.

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Speaking of teapartier’s quitting, Senator Jim DeMint is leaving the Senate.  He figures he has done all the damage he can do as a politician (even though he still has four years to go on his term) and will soon become president of the Heritage Foundation, which, as a font of much muddled thinking on the right, is doing damage on a much grander scale.

And, of course, there is much more money to be made out of government (the current Heritage president reportedly makes more than $1 million), as Sarah Palin, a teapartier who didn’t want to finish her term either, found out.

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Same-sex dope smokers can now get legally married and legally stoned, or vice versa, in Washington state.

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Pope Benedict XVI, the Vicar of Christ, is only the fifth most powerful person in the world. We’re finally making progress after 2000 years!

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Speaking of Christ, I found this little clip extraordinarily funny. Keep your eyes on the poor lady in the seat on the right, as she experiences the love of God:

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More Moocher Madness:

President Obama and the Democrats won last month’s election because they were able to turn out voters who are dependent on the government, former New Hampshire governor and Mitt Romney adviser John H. Sununu said last night.

Sununu, who during the election did everything but drop the N-word on Obama, said, “It was not because of message. It was not because of message.” No, of course not. Message had nothing to do with it. (Shhh. Don’t tell them any different. We like winning.)

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A couple of weeks ago, I heard an ad on the radio about Obama’s “third term.” Because I’m not nuts, I dismissed it as a cruel joke on right-wingers, an exploitation of their paranoia. Then today I found this advertisement on the Drudge Report:

obama third term

Okay, I couldn’t resist. I clicked. I now know that because of “new economic forces”—it turns out, somewhat disappointingly, to only be “the oil and natural gas boom“—Barack Obama will preside over such wealth creation and give away so many “handouts,” that we, us, you and me, will demand a third, possibly a fourth, term. Yep, in exchange for a few bucks, we’ll install our own dictator! I’m not kidding:

No one cheers more for a tyrant than those he enslaves. And so it will be in 2016, when the crowd will demand yet another Obama presidency.

The man behind this, of course, is selling something. In a mere 14,376 words (again, I’m not kidding), he explains how he can “help” us by showing us “how to position” ourselves and “profit” from the “massive economic changes” that are happening. And it’ll only cost us 99 bucks!

Small price to pay for enjoying Obama’s long reign in financial comfort. But come to think of it, if Obama is going to be so good to the people that we want to keep him around for a couple of extra terms, if he is going to make us prosperous or give us shit, why should I pay this guy 99 bucks for a newsletter?

I’ll just wait until I get my Obama money!

Food And Republican Logic

While watching “Up with Chris Hayes” Sunday morning on MSNBC, a Republican guest’s comment inspired me to present the following premises and conclusion, which taken together represent the twisted logic of the right-wing and its ongoing and ridiculous, if not partly racist, claim that Mr. Obama is the Food Stamp President:

♦ The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was formerly known as and still is popularly called the Food Stamp Program. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Nearly 75 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children; more than one-quarter of participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities.

♦ A significant change in SNAP occurred in 2002, including expanding it to “make more legal immigrants eligible for benefits,” according to the Agriculture Department. And according to a right-wing opponent of the increase in food stamp benefits, the 2002 bill, “increased benefits for families with more children, adjusted benefits for inflation and made it easier to enroll.”

♦ George Bush was president in 2002 and signed the expansion into law (as part of the big 2002 farm bill), saying at the time:

This bill is also a compassionate bill. This law means that legal immigrants can now receive help and food stamps after being here for five years. It means that you can have an elderly farm worker, somebody here legally in America who’s worked hard to make a living and who falls on hard times, that person can receive help from a compassionate government.

And as for Bush’s entire tenure as president, CNN reported earlier this year:

Food stamp enrollment has been rising for more than a decade. President Bush launched a recruitment campaign, which pushed average participation up by 63% during his eight years in office.

♦ Teapartiers Paul Ryan (whose famous budget cuts SNAP by $134 billion) and Jim DeMint (who now abhors increased spending on food stamps!), along with my former congressman and now senator from Missouri, Roy Blunt, voted for the 2002 food stamp expansion. So did then-senator and Missouri Republican Kit Bond.

♦ The 2008 version of the farm bill also expanded the food stamp program, and although Mr. Bush vetoed the bill (but not because of the food stamp expansion), Republicans provided the necessary margin to override his veto. That bill, again according to that same right-wing opponent of food stamp increases,

contained more than 30 provisions relating to food stamps, including higher minimum benefits. 

Again, Roy Blunt voted for the 2008 bill that expanded the program and voted in the House to override Bush’s veto.  In the Senate, the override vote saw 35 Republican senators—including Mitch McConnell—vote to override the veto. Missouri’s Kit Bond, along with both Kansas Republican senators, voted to override, thus expanding the food stamp program.

♦ The Great Recession, which cost millions of Americans their jobs and caused many people to seek help from the food stamp program, began while George Bush was president.

♦ Just before Mr. Obama came into office in January of 2009, the GDP shrank at an annualized rate of almost 9%. Yes, you read that right: “More than any other recession since the Great Depression.”

♦ The Democrats’ 2009 stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), did increase eligibility and funds for SNAP because:

In light of the increased demand for services and strained State budgets, the increased ARRA funding to State agencies that administer the SNAP program enables State governments to avoid reductions in services and to meet the increasing demand from low-income families and individuals resulting from the recession.

REPUBLICAN CONCLUSION: The fact that more folks needed and continue to need food stamps because of the Great Recession is all Barack Obama’s fault and he is, therefore, the Food Stamp President.

Besides admiring the audacity of the faulty logic of Republicans, it may interest you to know that for all the talk about food stamps and the number of Americans who need them, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average monthly benefit—I kid you not—is a whopping $133.84 (in Missouri it is $127.05).

Again, I kid you not. That tiny amount, most of it going to families with kids, is what generates all the divisive demagoguery—including Romney’s 47% nonsense—and what causes Republicans to bend the principles of logic in service to their Obama-hating agenda.

One Fine Day

Well, I said yesterday that Romney’s attack on President Obama for “sympathizing” with those who attacked and killed American diplomats on Tuesday—I still can’t believe Romney made it necessary to write that—would require a “multitude of relatively sober Republican leaders in Congress” to step forth and “call this for what it is” or else “the Republican Party is truly beyond redemption.”

Okay, so let’s look at what happened.

Joe Scarborough, who has his hear tuned to the weird frequency congressional Republicans use to broadcast their bullshit, tweeted:

He was “inundated,” he said. Some inundation. Quiet as could be.

No Republican that I could find openly condemned Romney for suggesting not once but twice that President Obama essentially sided with those attacking American embassies in that he felt the need to “apologize” to them. Not one Republican.

Oh, to be sure, there weren’t that many Republicans willing to go all-in with Mittens, but neither were they rushing to call him out for his recklessness or his questionable patriotism.

Of course, I didn’t expect they would. But I did expect people like Richard Lugar, a veteran Republican who gets credit for being sensible on foreign policy matters, to strongly criticize Romney’s irresponsibility, especially since Ambassador Chris Stevens worked as a staffer for Lugar on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But no criticism of Romney came from Lugar. Only rightful praise for Chris Stevens, whose priceless service and sad death Romney stomped all over with his viscous and opportunistic attack on the Commander-in-Chief.

What about John McCain, who fancies himself, depending on what day it is, the de facto Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, and sometimes even the de facto President of the United States. What did he have to say?

Well, I saw McCain twice on Thursday morning defending Romney. And I mean defending him. Here’s how NBC wrote up his appearance on the Today show:

A day after he and many fellow Republicans showed restrained reaction to the White House’s response to the deadly attacks against American diplomats in Libya, Sen. John McCain on Thursday ripped into President Obama for “feckless foreign policy” he said is harming Middle East relations.

See? Romney lies about and attacks the Commander-in-Chief before McCain’s dead “friend” Chris Stevens is cold, and McCain, statesman that he is, rips Obama—the man who ordered bin Laden to the bottom of the sea—as “feckless.”  Thank Allah that guy never actually became president.

What about Rob Portman, who was a Paul Ryan cowlick away from being Romney’s VP pick? What did he have to say about Romney’s unpatriotic overreaction to a statement from our embassy in Cairo? On CBS This Morning, he said this:

I think for Governor Romney, having seen that statement, to react as he did is the reaction that most Americans would have…which is that at a time when we have this kind of violence against American territory, the thing to do is to condemn it and not to begin by issuing an apology…

Are you bleeping kidding me? Huh? First, Governor Romney is not just one of a breed we call “most Americans.” We don’t want a man in the White House who will react like Most Americans. We want one who actually gets all the facts right before he runs his mouth, a running mouth that will run all over the world.

Second, Portman, as interviewer Norah O’Donnell tried to point out to him, is simply spouting off without knowing the chronology of events. For the millionth time, the statement—not cleared by the White House but completely acceptable given the circumstances—issued by a staffer in the embassy in Cairo occurred about six hours before the breach of American territory happened, and Secretary Hillary Clinton was quick to condemn the violence after it became clear what was going on.

Dammit, get it right. You’re a bleeping U.S. Senator for God’s sake.

I saw Allen West, congressman from a place in Florida where facts are apparently manufactured for convenience, repeat to the Three Stooges on Fox and Friends this morning the same lie Portman and Romney are still pushing:

We should not have made some type of conciliatory, apologetic stance in the middle of our embassies being attacked…

The fact that there was no apologetic stance at any time, let alone “in the middle” of an attack on our embassies, didn’t bother the Three Stooges, as they nodded in agreement with that lying fool from Florida, in all but pigmentation a perfect representation of today’s GOP.

I saw Jim Inhofe, the loopy senator from Oklahoma, aggressively defending Romney on Fox this morning, embarassing himself, and if it is possible to further embarass that God-forsaken and embarrassing state, Oklahoma.

I read a statement released by Senator Jim DeMint, the real father of the Obama-loathing, reactionary Tea Party, not only defending Romney, but also picking up Romney’s lie about the President, whom he hates with a Christianly, Waterlooish passion:

Governor Romney is absolutely right, there is no justification for these deadly attacks and we should never apologize for American freedom. Islamic radicals will use any pretext to justify their hatred of America and our freedom.

It was disheartening to hear the administration condemn Americans engaging in free speech that hurt the feelings of Muslims, while real atrocities have been repeatedly committed by Islamic radicals against women, Christians, and Jews in the Middle East.

How do you begin to describe a party whose leaders say stupid and dishonest shit like that?

And speaking of stupid and dishonest shit.

Rush Limbaugh, who just a day earlier said Romney “may as well be Elmer Fudd,” since conservatives weren’t voting for him but “against Obama,” was on Wednesday all gooey-eyed and Viagra-hard over Mittens:

And after all this happens, guess who the bad guy is?  Mitt Romney, who is the only guy that looked presidential in all of this, who had the guts to go out and characterize this statement from the embassy accurately.  And the media is now saying that Romney jumped the gun, launched a political attack before the facts of the embassy violence were known…

Stupid and dishonest shit is what that is. But there is plenty more, which I won’t go into, except for what was revealed about Romney’s motives by none other than Laura Ingraham, the nasally, hysterical talk show host and Fox “News” regular, who hates Obama almost as much as she loves her converted-Catholic Jesus.

On Tuesday, before the events in Libya and Egypt, Ingraham said this about Mittens:

This is a gimme election, or at least it should be. If you can’t beat Barack Obama with this record, then shut down the party. Shut it down. Start new, with new people.

Ingraham was expressing the frustrations conservatives were feeling over Romney’s declining poll numbers. But on Wednesday, things had changed. After playing a clip of Romney’s presser in which he doubled-down on the initial lie about Obama and the embassy statement, Ingraham said:

Excellent. Mitt Romney is gettin’ his groove on…He did not back down one iota. That’s exactly how he should conduct this campaign. Keep these people back on their heels…Maybe this will just spur Obama to get a pair as well…

Her first caller after that stellar commentary was a spectacularly ignorant gentleman from New Albany, Indiana, who confessed that, “Obama makes my skin crawl,” after he chimed in with this:

This is what I’ve been waiting for. This-is-what-I-have-been-waiting-for. In one press conference, Governor Romney looked more presidential than any press conference I’ve seen Barack Obama conduct in four years…

Now, one would have had to see that pathetic Romney press conference to know just how disturbed is this gentlemen’s perception, but his comment does reveal the real reason why Mitt Romney behaved on Tuesday like Glenn Beck instead of a candidate for high office. He was trying to get people like Limbaugh and Ingraham and that low-information, bigoted American from Indiana to love him.

Because nothing makes palefaced folks say “I love you” like a factless attack on our feckless, Muslim-loving, hyper-apologetic, terrorist-sympathizing, Kenyan Commander-in-Chief.

And if Republicans want a party that only right-wing know-nothings on the radio and TV can love, then that is what they will have.

And one fine day they will have it all to themselves.

Stupid Pills Overdose

Tom Coburn, our senator-neighbor from Oklahoma, said the other day:

We have taken a stupid pill and now we sit bankrupt, physically bankrupt and fiscally bankrupt at this moment except we just haven’t recognized it yet. What’s happening in Europe is going to happen to us in less than a year.

Well, Mr. Coburn, who reportedly is a doctor, has apparently been first in line for the stupid pills. 

First, we’re not bankrupt. That’s a stupid thing to say while sitting in a country that is the richest in the world. The United States holds 39% of all the world’s assets. Get that? Second richest is Japan with less than 14%. It’s not even bleeping close. Our per capita GDP is $43,563; Germany’s is $39,339; Japan’s is $36,952. Incidentally, China’s is $3,769.  Stop it with the stupidity, Senator.

Second, Mr. Coburn will look pretty stupid in less than a year, when the United States is still here and, relative to the rest of the developed world, still thriving.

Third, I heard the good doctor say this morning on MSNBC that Ron Johnson, Pat Toomey and Jim DeMint were the good guys fighting the good fight in the U.S. Senate.  Now, given that those senators, especially Jim DeMint, are what is wrong with Washington, D.C., that is pretty damned stupid.

So, I say to the doctor: Physician, heal thyself.

Billy Long: A Profile In Courage?

Yesterday I mentioned that Colonel Ozark Billy Long, my congressman, attached his name to a letter addressed to the cut-the-deficit supercommittee, a letter that was signed by 40 House Republicans—37 of whom have at one time signed the Grover Norquist pledge not to ever, ever, ever raise taxes—and 60 House Democrats suggesting that,

To succeed, all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table.

That word “revenues” has impregnated many folks with hope that Republicans, at least some of them in the House, have come to their senses about the need to increase government revenues. (Jim DeMint has attempted to abort that hope with a list of 33 Senators who pledge to keep having political intercourse with Grover Norquist, however.)

One of my favorite pundits, Lawrence O’Donnell, even had a segment last night in which he posted the mugs of the 40 House Republicans under an approving header:

You may have noticed that red circle around the mug of Ozark Billy, which I put there to indicate that I don’t agree with the suggestion that Long’s including himself in the letter to the supercommittee constitutes some kind of profile in courage.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I thought about it. It is something like progress that 40 Republicans were willing to step out of the Norquistian shadows and see reality perhaps for the first time in their lives.

And I wanted to write a nice piece praising my congressman for his courage, for his political valor, for his willingness to give the finger to Grover Norquist.

But then I started thinking.

If someone who had been holding a hostage suddenly decided to let him go, would we be obliged to reward the hostage taker by giving him or her a medal of honor?  Republicans, including most of the signers of the letter, have been serial economic hostage takers. The fact that a few of them may have put the gun down and decided to try another way does not merit uncritical admiration.

Then, I noticed that the letter did not include any specific proposals or any definition of what “revenues” meant, in terms of raising them.  I’m sure most of the Republicans had in mind some kind of tax reform that would lower rates and eliminate deductions, thus possibly—and I say, only “possibly”—resulting in a net increase in government revenue.

And then I started thinking about what Billy Long has said this year.

During the debt-ceiling debate in July, he was quoted in the Springfield News-Leader as saying,

We are not going to raise the debt limit and they need to know that now instead of August 2nd.

The debt-ceiling fiasco nearly everyone now recognizes as one of the low points in American history. On the floor of the house, as the debt-ceiling nonsense raged, he said on July 19, “The people have spoken. The business community has spoken. When will the President and the Democrats listen?” and then he finished with this:

I would like to close with one of the hundreds of letters from one of my constituents:

 “Dear Congressman Long, do not budge. We put you in office to stop these big spenders. Go ahead and call his bluff. I am in tornado-ravaged Joplin and rebuilding my house. I’m glad you are covering my wallet in Washington.”

Call his bluff,” Billy!

As for jobs, in late summer he was quoted in the Joplin Globe as saying that the nation “doesn’t need a jobs project” and,

Now, we over-regulate, overtax-ate and over-litigate.

Overtax-ate“?  In two months has he suddenly changed his mind about the amount of taxes the government collects?  Huh?

On September 22, 2011 on the floor of the House he said,

We don’t do much right up here, and trying to run businesses is not something we should be doing. We should be reducing taxes, reducing spending, reducing regulation.

So, six weeks ago he was saying we should be “reducing taxes” and now he has come to Jesus on the need to raise revenues? Huh?

Then, this Wednesday, the same day the letter to the supercommittee was released, he said (my emphasis):

Mr. Speaker, I came to Congress as a small business owner. And as any small business owner will tell you, the government can’t create jobs, only the private sector can

…the reality is that government spending trades productive private sector jobs for usually wasteful public sector jobs….

As part of the House GOP Plan for America’s Job Creators, we’ve opposed the President whenever he wants to create new taxes or more regulations…

Since President Obama has been the champion of tax cuts, and since he has also been on board with reforming the tax code—as Long himself has said is necessary—it’s hard to say what Ozark Billy means by Obama wanting to create “new taxes,” except new taxes—which really aren’t “new”—on the wealthiest Americans.

Is the Colonel now, by virtue of his letter to the supercommittee, suddenly supporting increased taxes on the wealthy? It’s hard to believe that.

Thus, it’s also hard to give him any credit for courage for putting his name on a letter to the supercommittee that quite generically mentions “revenue” as being on the table.  I do hope, however, that it is a sign of a new phase of reasonableness in the political life of our congressman from Springfield, but I’m not ready to pin a medal on his chest just yet.

A Champion Of The Middle Class

You know, I confess that there are times—say, when I listened last night to a fool like Donald Trump or a lying scoundrel like Jim DeMint on Fox “News”—that following politics these days, at least for a committed liberal, is very difficult, mostly frustrating, and sometimes throw-in-the-towel ugly.

But then I listen to someone like Elizabeth Warren, who has decided to run against “Wall Street’s Favorite Congressman” Scott Brown in Massachusetts for Ted Kennedy’s old senate seat, and I get new life.

Ms. Warren—who has earned the title of Saint Elizabeth—fought for the creation of the all-important Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Fortunately, she won that all-important fight for that all-important federal agency, and the reason I know it was all-important was because Republicans fought so hard—and they’re still fighting—to kill it.

In any case, St. Elizabeth appeared on St. Rachel’s show last night and I present part of that segment to you to demonstrate what a genuine public-spirited person sounds like, a public-spirited person who is willing to fight for the public. And as you listen I ask you to imagine what would happen to the quality of our governance if people like Elizabeth Warren comprised a majority in Congress:

Remarks And Asides

Mitch McConnell, who at one time resisted the Tea Party temptation, has now succumbed and is apparently willing to drink a sweat Slurpee straight from Jim DeMint’s booty crack—with a short straw, mind you.

McConnell attacked Chuck Schumer today for accurately describing non-compromising Republicans as “extremists.”  McConnell said that Democrats are the real extremists.  Okay. I agree. Given the state of the budget discussions, congressional Democrats are extremely poor negotiators.  One might even say that if throwing in the towel were an Olympic sport, Democrats would be the Michael Phelps of surrender.

So far, they have managed to give Republicans more than half their budget cuts and have received next to nothing in return.  There must have been some sort of special election I missed.  When did the GOP grab control of the entire government again?

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Donald Trump, God’s gift to atheists everywhere, says that the reason President Obama won’t produce yet another valid birth certificate is that he may be hiding his Muslimism.

I am embracing this issue,” he told MSNBC, “I’m proud of the issue…somebody has to embrace it.” 

Thank you, Jesus.

Trump, by the way, has finally produced a valid birth certificate of his own, which proves once and for all he was not a creation of the Democratic National Committee’s Avatar Division. Let’s face it, that division has its hands full, what with creating and animating Michele Bachmann.

And technicians are still fine-tuning the latest version of Newt Gingrich, a project began long go.  The investment in the Gingrich-bot has paid off handsomely over the years and Democratic programmers are promising even more useful Gingrich quotes as time goes by.

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Speaking of Gingrich, I missed it last week when he criticized House Republicans for not being aggressive enough in the budget negotiations. On blabbing Hugh Hewitt’s talk show, he said Congressional Republicans should demand that President Obama give up his health reform law in exchange for Republicans agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.

I hate to admit it, but given the Democrats’ skill at negotiating, that might not be a bad strategy. If the GOP lawmakers try something like that, expect Democrats to counter-offer with a proposal to repeal those parts of the law already in effect and delay implementation of the rest until 3014.

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An Indiana Republican state legislator said the following in a debate over a jobs highly restrictive abortion bill he introduced, to which an amendment was proposed to make an exception for victims of rape or incest:

…someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest…

To that outrageous pap, Democrat Rep. Linda Lawson, a former sex crimes investigator for the Indiana police, replied:

Women don’t make this up! My Goodness! This is the state of Indiana!

Yes, unfortunately, Ms. Lawson, it is.

More Brilliance From Ozark Billy

Ozark Billy has weighed in on Obama’s speech.

Here’s a compilation of his brilliant commentary, courtesy of the Springfield News-Leader:

Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield, said he thought the president was “off.”

“The content, to me, was lacking,” Long said in a post-speech interview.

“We’re in serious, serious problems in this country and we need to cut spending immediately. And he was talking about electric cars,” he said…

Long…said the president should have gone a step further and cut spending, instead of freezing it…

Long was especially disappointed with the president’s call to abolish oil subsidies* and the part advocating bipartisan work on last year’s health care bill, he said.

He liked some of the president’s suggestions, such as medical malpractice reform, which Republicans have championed. But, he said, Obama was late inviting Republicans to the table to discuss health care reform.

“It’s interesting now that he wants our ideas where last year he cut us out totally,” Long said.

And Long, along with his fellow Springfield Republican, Sen. Roy Blunt, criticized Obama’s lack of focus on jobs.

“I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear about cutting spending and creating jobs,” Long said.

Naturally, President Obama should have tailored his speech to please Ozark Billy, or maybe a Boss Hogg hat would have helped.

In any case, according to the News-Leader, “Long sat with members of the South Carolina delegation, including another auctioneer.”  That auctioneer is union-basher, Jeff Duncan, and I, for one, believe it is totally appropriate for our respected representative to spend quality time hanging around Republicans from South Carolina. 

And I don’t know if Joe “You lie!” Wilson was among the group Ozark Billy sat with, or if Jim “Waterloo” DeMint was nearby, but it is altogether fitting that someone who could say that Obama was “off” last night has all of the qualifications for membership in a rather strange fraternity of goofy Republicans from South Carolina.

__________________________

* Obama ask Congress to eliminate the subsidies because the industry seemed to be doing okay. Here is one example:

ConocoPhillips said Wednesday its fourth-quarter net income jumped 54 per cent as oil prices increased and its refining operations turned a profit.

The Houston company, reported net income of $2 billion, or $1.39 per share, for the final three months of 2010. That compares with $1.3 billion, or 86 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue grew 22 per cent to $53.2 billion.

The sad thing about that is this, from the last summer’s New York Times:

…an examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process…the tax breaks…average about $4 billion per year.

Now, nevermind that it makes no sense for Ozark Billy to get so upset about taking away subsidies for oil companies—southwest Missouri isn’t exactly Saudi Arabia—but to be so upset about that and at the same time whine about government spending is, well, that’s Ozark Billy for ya!

Remarks And Asides

Here’s what wrong with Washington:  Harry Reid was told by nine Republicans that they would support his efforts to get the omnibus budget bill—which would have funded the government through next September—to the floor for debate, which meant it would have eventually passed the Senate. 

But because of a fear of the Tea Party—in the person of Jim DeMint, who demanded the 1900-page bill be read by the Senate clerk, a 50-hour endeavor—Republicans who gave their word to Harry Reid stabbed him squarely in the back at the last minute Thursday night, while he was on the floor.  He was forced to pull the bill and make yet another deal with Mitch McConnell over a continuing resolution.

Now, backstabbing Republicans are a problem, no doubt.  But why can’t the guys on our side at least name names when deceit like this happens?  Reid said on the floor that he would not call out the names of those senators—liars, all—who pulled back their support.  He said they knew who they were.  Yes, they do.  But the rest of us don’t. 

UPDATE: At noon today, I heard Andrea Mitchell, on her show on the “liberal” network MSNBC, say that Reid was “outfoxed.”  Outfoxed? The definition of that word is, “to surpass in guile or cunning.”  In other words, both sides were using guile and Reid simply got out-guiled by a better guiler.  That’s what happens when Democrats refuse to name names and put a face on the deception of the other side. 

At least Missouri’s own Claire McCaskill, who was going to vote against the omnibus bill anyway, did call them out. She specifically mentioned that the Republican Minority Leader had his own earmarks in the bill and fiercely criticized Republicans for their hypocrisy. 

_____________________________ 

Last night, the headline on CNN was: House passes Obama tax plan.  Get that?  It’s Obama‘s tax plan.

On CNN’s Anderson Cooper last night, I watched the first ten-minute segment, which was about all the “game playing” in the Congress.  Except, that if one were just a casual observer of American politics and didn’t know the truth, the impression left by Cooper and cast was that “both sides” were engaging in the game playing. 

This is Anderson Cooper and CNN at their split-the-difference best.  In order to solidify their self-described standing as the anti-Fox and anti-MSNBC network, they distort the truth to make it appear they are being neutral.  That’s not journalism, people.  Both sides are not equally guilty as regards the mess that is Washington, D.C.

______________________________

A new poll found what we all know:  Republicans believe certain facts about the world that are not in fact facts.  But so do Democrats.  The study also found that “those who had greater levels of exposure to news sources had lower levels of misinformation.”  Of course, that makes sense. 

But then there’s this:

There were, however, a number of cases where greater exposure to a particular news source increased misinformation on some issues.

Those who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely than those who never watched it to believe that most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely), most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points), the economy is getting worse (26 points), most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points), the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points), their own income taxes have gone up (14 points), the auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points), when TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points) and that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points). The effect was also not simply a function of partisan bias, as people who voted Democratic and watched Fox News were also more likely to have such misinformation than those who did not watch it–though by a lesser margin than those who voted Republican.

Surprise!

To be fair, there was one case in which MSNBC and NPR were allegedly the guilty party:

Daily consumers of MSNBC and public broadcasting (NPR and PBS) were higher (34 points and 25 points respectively) in believing that it was proven that the US Chamber of Commerce was spending money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates.

Given the fact that the Chamber of Commerce won’t—and doesn’t legally have to—release donor lists or reveal just how it keeps foreign money separate in its accounting, it’s understandable how folks could jump to that conclusion.  But, again, to be fair, it is conclusion jumping, since apparently there isn’t a way to prove it.

So, in the Misinformation Olympics, Fox “News” has nine gold medals, and MSNBC and NPR have one bronze.  In other words, Fox is the East German swim team of propaganda.  Congratulations!

Away In A Manger

How stupid do they think we are?

This morning on Morning Joe, Mike Barnicle asked that question relative to the comments made by Republican Senators Jim DeMint and Jon Kyl yesterday, who suggested that Harry Reid was disrespecting the Christian faith by keeping the Senate in session through the normal Christmas break.

Here is the START treaty obstructionist Jon Kyl’s remark:

It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out without doing — frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff.

Now, forget about the fact that there is still a lot of legislative work to be done because of Republican obstructionism.  And forget about the fact that Harry Reid himself is a Christian, and presumably is fond of the whole wrapped-in-swaddling-clothes-lying-in-a-manger thing.  And forget about the troops all over the world who aren’t taking a Christmas break.  Or others here at home that may get off half a day on Christmas Eve, then the weekend, and it’s back to work on Monday.

Forget about all that, but remember this: Some Republicans, particularly in the United States Senate, have become so arrogant that they think they can say or do almost anything with impunity.  They think they can take the most extreme positions and still count on the support of the voters in their states, who often unflinchingly reelect them.

In other words, they think their voters are idiots and fools.

Just yesterday, Senators John Cornyn and John Thune held a press conference for the purpose of ridiculing the $8 billion dollars worth of earmarks in the 1900-page omnibus budget bill. The bill is more than $1 trillion dollars.

The problem with the press conference idea was that some reporters in the room were aware of the Republican scheme, particularly ABC’s Jon Karl, who grilled the two senators on their own earmarks—tens of millions of dollars worth—in the bill. 

“How do you have any credibility on this?” asked Mr. Karl. 

“Because we’re going to vote against the bill,” Cornyn replied.  “This is the wrong way to do business.”

“Senator, were you wrong when you put these earmarks in before?” Karl asked.

“Karl, this is not just about earmarks,” said Cornyn.

Except, that it was just about earmarks. That was the point of the press conference, remember?

You see, what these Republican Senators thought would happen was that the Democrats, who have the responsibility of governance, would pass the budget bill that included GOP earmarks, and the Republicans could oppose the bill, but still get goodies for their states with clean hands. 

Except someone dared to commit journalism and ruined the whole thing.

Here is ABC’s report on the issue (after a too-long commercial): 


Crass Ass Conservatism: The Real Republican Pledge to America

Paul Krugman wrote yesterday in the New York Times about the failure of the Obama administration to propose a large enough stimulus plan to combat the financial crisis the administration underestimated.

While admitting that the Recovery Act made things better than they would have been—he estimated unemployment would be near 12% without it—Krugman called the stimulus a “political catastrophe.”  “Voters respond to facts,” he said, “not counterfactuals, and the perception is that the administration’s policies have failed.”

He also said this:

The tragedy here is that if voters do turn on Democrats, they will in effect be voting to make things even worse.

The resurgent Republicans have learned nothing from the economic crisis, except that doing everything they can to undermine Mr. Obama is a winning political strategy.

It appears that we won’t have to wait until next January to find out if Krugman is right.  This morning on Morning Joe, I heard Major Garrett point out that Republican Mitch McConnell admitted to National Journal magazine the following:

MCCONNELL: We need to be honest with the public. This election is about them, not us. And we need to treat this election as the first step in retaking the government. We need to say to everyone on Election Day, “Those of you who helped make this a good day, you need to go out and help us finish the job.”

NATIONAL JOURNAL: What’s the job?

MCCONNELL: The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

We have seen the de facto head of the Republican Party and conservative movement, Rush Limbaugh, in orgasmic anticipation, wish for the President of the United States to fail.

We have seen the de facto head of the Tea Party movement, Jim DeMint, say, with militaristic glee, that, “If we’re able to stop Obama…it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”

And now we see the Republican Minority Leader in the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell, admit to the world, with uncharacteristic honesty, that the “most important thing” on his plate for the next two years is to make sure Republicans gain power.

What more evidence does anyone need that it is not only dumb to put Republicans back in charge of the government, it is dangerous?

This is Republican patriotism, my friends. Crass ass conservatism.

[Krugman photo: Jessica Kourkounis—The New York Times]

Remarks and Asides

I frequently bash Joplin Globe editorials, but today is a day for praise.  Our paper had the nerve to criticize a Tea Party Pooh-Bah, Jim DeMint, for his reiteration that homosexuals and “unmarried, sexually active females” shouldn’t teach the nation’s crumb crunchers:

Here is a senator who calls for limited government, less government “intrusion” in our lives, constitutional restrictions on governmental authority and other “limits” on government. Then he wants to exclude through the force of the government.

Sexual bias has not been a major element in the midterm campaigns so far. But the senator from South Carolina has put his foot in his mouth.

Members of the Republican Party should make sure voters know they don’t share DeMint’s sentiments of a Big Brother society out of control.

Unfortunately, while I am thankful that the Globe editorialist had the chutzpah to take Mr. DeMint to the woodshed and spank his gay-baiting bottom, the truth is that around these parts a large number of Bible totin’ folks agree with DeMint.

____________________________________

Staying local, Joplin Mayor Mike Woolston told a joint powwow with the Joplin Board of Education that he has come to his senses about the value of education, which is welcome news.  According to the Globe,

He said he used to believe that dropouts should be allowed to go their way so that students who were intent on graduating were not held back, but he now sees those students as part of the future economic lifeblood of the city. “I now believe the city and school district have a vested interest” in working together toward student achievement and increased gradua­tion rates, he said.

Imagine that.  Marginal students matter!

In another tribute to reality, a city official said this:

Council member Jack Golden said some neighborhoods have high rates of poverty and insta­bility, and that the city has an obligation to develop higher paying jobs to try to address those issues. Families cannot be supported on jobs that pay $8 or $9 an hour, he said.

Wow!  We’re really getting somewhere now.  And the mayor chimed in:

Woolston said one of his goals is to make the school district an equal partner over time with the city and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce in eco­nomic development.

Now, that’s the way it should be. Everyone working together to develop and grow the economy.  Except that the Joplin Chamber of Commerce could really help out by not sending any money to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is pledging to spend $75 million on campaign ads—some of the money coming from foreign entities—to elect candidates with the same economic philosophy that caused us to lose about 8 million jobs, including jobs in Joplin.

President Obama said this about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday:

Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. Groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections, and they won’t tell you where the money for their ads come from. So, this isn’t just a threat to Democrats. All Republicans should be concerned.  Independents should be concerned.

This is a threat to our democracy.

The American people deserve to know who’s trying to sway their elections, and if we just stand by and allow the special interests to silence anybody who’s got the guts to stand up to them, our country will be a very different place.

There is also considerable evidence that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s Billionaire Relief Fund, known as American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, have been coordinating election spending here in Missouri, targeted at Democrats, of course.

The New York Times reports:

Two campaign finance watchdog organizations released a letter to the Internal Revenue Service today, requesting that it investigate whether a nonprofit advocacy group tied to Karl Rove was violating federal tax laws with its involvement in this year’s midterm elections.

The group, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, is set up as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which means that, by law, its “primary purpose” is not supposed to be political. Yet it has been the biggest third-party player on television in Senate races across the country over the last two months…

The sad thing about the World U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Rovian, millionaire- and billionaire-funded, “grassroots” campaigns is that in some places they are having the desired effect.  

And that may mean fewer higher-paying jobs in Joplin.

 _________________________________________

And finally, a federal judge, George Steeh, in the Eastern District of Michigan, has found that the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution does allow the federal government to impose penalties on folks who don’t buy health insurance, as mandated by the recently passed health care reform legislation:

The plaintiffs have not opted out of the health care services market because, as living, breathing beings, who do not oppose medical services on religious grounds, they cannot opt out of this market. As inseparable and integral members of the health care services market, plaintiffs have made a choice regarding the method of payment for the services they expect to receive. The government makes the apropos analogy of paying by credit card rather than by check. How participants in the health care services market pay for such services has a documented impact on interstate commerce. Obviously, this market reality forms the rational basis for Congressional action designed to reduce the number of uninsureds.

The suit was brought by the Thomas More Law Center, a radical right-wing Christian conservative group who opposes same-sex marriage and who opposes, well, you know the drill, blah, blah, blah. 

If you ever bought a Domino’s Pizza, then you contributed to the founding of Thomas More Law Center, since Domino’s founder, Tom Monaghan formed the law center from money he got from putting too much tomato sauce on his damn pizzas and not enough pepperoni.  In any case, all you need to know about Thomas More Law Center is that Rick Santorum, Bowie Kuhn, and Alan Keyes have sat on the advisory board.

Gays, God, And The GOP

There is a war coming among Tea Party folks.

Those of us on the outside of the Tea Party movement have marveled at the way religious crusaders like the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and Stone Age conservatives like Jim DeMint have managed to not only get their noses under the Tea Party tent, but actually have become the ringmasters, directing the show.

But DeMint’s comments last week about gay teachers and single women illuminate the trouble that is brewing within the movement.  Here is a statement released on Tuesday from GOProud, a counter-intuitive organization of gay and lesbian and transgendered conservatives:

On Friday, United States Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) told a crowd in South Carolina that he supports barring openly gay teachers, as well as sexually active unmarried female teachers, from the school system. “Jim DeMint’s comments can only be described as outrageous and bizarre. The idea that someone who says they believe in limited government would support the government weeding out gay teachers and unmarried sexually active female teachers simply defies logic,” said Christopher R. Barron, Chairman of the GOProud Board. “Jim DeMint is doing his best to make Alvin Greene look sane.”

Mr. Barron, a Tea Party true believer, told Lawrence O’Donnell this:

The energy in the conservative movement is around the Tea Party, which is about limiting the size and scope of government—I mean Jim DeMint calls himself a limited government conservative, yet his idea of a limited government is one large enough to be policing the sex lives of our public school teachers. I mean, the idea is completely and totally insane and it completely flies in the face of what the Tea Party movement stands for…this movement is not about gay marriage, it isn’t about gay teachers or sexually active, unmarried women teachers or any of these social issues.

Want to bet?  Mr. Barron may just now be getting his head out of his fiscally conservative ass, but the truth about the Tea Party movement has been apparent for months now.  The movement has not only been financed by big-money Republicans, it has been hijacked by white Christian conservatives, who see the movement as a way to bring America back to its “Christian roots.” 

And DeMint’s comments only serve to reveal the enormous crack between those who erroneously think they are fighting to restore constitutional government and those who naively think they are fighting to restore American Christendom.

Gay Americans like Christopher Barron desperately want the Republican Party to be an inclusive and happy family of fiscally conservative, Hayek-toting libertarians.  Nope. The party is quickly becoming the property of fiscally conservative, Bible-toting zealots.

And the Bible says that the way Christopher Barron and his gay friends “choose” to have sex is an abomination to the Lord.

Just ask Jim DeMint.

Here is Christopher Barron’s appearance on The Last Word last night:

The War On Obama

Given that conservatives have continued to prosecute their all-out war on Obama’s handling of our fight against Al Qaeda, it was nice to hear a strong defense of the administration coming from somewhere near the top. Here is one excerpt from Joe Biden’s appearance on Meet The Press today:

DAVID GREGORY: What about the general proposition that the President according to former Vice President Cheney doesn’t consider America to be at war and is essentially soft on terrorism? What do you say about that?

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I don’t think the Vice– the Former Vice President Dick Cheney listens. The President of the United States said in the State of the Union, “We’re at war with Al Qaeda.” He stated this– and by the way, we’re pursuing that war with a vigor like it’s never been seen before. We’ve eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. We have taken out 100 of their associates. We are making, we’ve sent them underground. They are in fact not able to do anything remotely like they were in the past. They are on the run. I don’t know where Dick Cheney has been. Look, it’s one thing, again, to– to criticize. It’s another thing to sort of rewrite history. What is he talking about?

This follows Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan’s piece last week in USA Today in which he said:

This administration’s efforts have disrupted dozens of terrorist plots against the homeland and been responsible for killing and capturing hundreds of hard-core terrorists, including senior leaders in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond — far more than in 2008. We need no lectures about the fact that this nation is at war.

Now, no doubt these defenses will not placate Obama’s political enemies. They are at war with Obama himself.  The right-wing will not be satisfied by good news that the 9/11 perpetrators are being diminished on a daily basis. They don’t like Obama’s approach because it lacks the language of authoritarianism that conservatives covet.

Not content with merely being at war with Al Qaeda, they want Obama to buy into their larger “war on terror” because such a posture allows for a wide array of possibilities—both domestic and foreign—that will help satisfy their authoritarian cravings.  From wanting more warrantless surveillance of Americans to suggesting starting a war with Iran,  their authoritarian jones simply can’t be satisfied by a thoughtful, “professorial” approach they claim Obama’s policies represent.

Especially now that the Obama administration has tripled down on the efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan—with unarguable success—conservatives these days have to focus on some other aspect of the administration’s policy they want to make the public believe is leaving us vulnerable to terrorism.  Thus, a return to an emphasis on the language that Obama uses, as he prosecutes the war on actual terrorists, as opposed to an amorphous war on a tactic, “terror.”

What some have called a right-wing meme still makes its way about the culture.  You’ve heard it: “Obama won’t even use the word ‘terror.”  In a stunning example of not only right-wing hysteria, but of mainstream media compliance with such hysteria, here is a transcript from CNN from early January:

SEN. JIM DEMINT (Rep-S.C.): There’s no question that the president has down-played the risk of terror since he took office. He is investigating the CIA, rather than build them up.

GLORIA BORGER: How has he — Senator DeMint, how — how has he down-played the risk of terror?

DEMINT: Well, it begins with not even being willing to use the word.

BORGER: Well, aside from the semantics, aside from that.

As Greg Sargent pointed out,

Politico ran with DeMint’s claim today, also without fact-checking it. So did The Hill and MSNBC. CBS also ran similar DeMint comments without rebutting them.

The rebuttal is that not only has Obama repeatedly used the word, he had used it as recently as one day before DeMint’s accusation!  You gotta love that liberal media, letting hard-core conservatives lie about Obama that way.

But thankfully, there are other outlets.  Here is one example that utterly destroys the Obama-won’t-use-the-word-terror meme:

  

If you think such a devastating rebuttal of outrageous right-wing hysteria would stop the insane references to language and Obama’s war efforts, you would be wrong.  Here is something Sarah Palin said, to much applause, at the Tea Party Convention last weekend:

Let me say, too, it’s not politicizing our security to discuss our concerns because Americans deserve to know the truth about the threats that we face and what the administration is or isn’t doing about them. So let’s talk about them. New terms used like “overseas contingency operation” instead of the word “war.” That reflects a world view that is out of touch with the enemy that we face. We can’t spin our way out of this threat. It is one thing to call a pay raise a job created or saved. It is quite another to call the devastation that a homicide bomber can inflict a “manmade disaster.” I just say, come on, Washington, if no where else, national security, that is one place where you’ve got to call it like it is.

She went on to say:

We need a foreign policy that distinguishes America’s friends from her enemies and recognizes the true nature of the threats that we face.

The “true nature of the threats that we face” is what Obama and his administration have finally got right.  And for that the right-wing offers nothing but ridicule and fear.  The latest book by a former Bush official, Marc Thiessen, has as part of its title the following:

How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack

Thiessen began his attacks on Obama rather early.  Last year he wrote:

It’s not even the end of inauguration week, and Obama is already proving to be the most dangerous man ever to occupy the Oval Office.

All of this illustrates that conservatives are more interested in a “War on Obama” than anything else.

[Biden photo: AP; Palin photo: Tennessean.com]

The Prince And The Prince Of Peace

Now that the Democrats have squandered an illusory 60-vote majority in the Senate, one that wasn’t really manageable considering Joe Lieberman had a man crush on John McCain and other hawkish Republicans, and considering he is as phony as an Allen Shirley guest column, it’s time to try a new strategy of governance.

While I will leave it up to legislative gurus to figure out a way to advance through Congress an agenda that Democrats can be proud of, I want to address something that has bothered me at least since the false-patriot Rush Limbaugh uttered the F-word—failure—regarding Obama’s presidency.

Make no mistake about it, I am a great admirer of the president.  I worked to get him votes; I defended him before angry voters; I supported his initial conciliatory approach to governance, in which he tried to transcend normal partisan politics and forge coalitions to get things done.  I have written many times in his defense over the past several months.  His thoughtfulness, his deliberation,  and his willingness to wait until he has all the facts before he acts are part of a style I love and appreciate.

But, I am now waiting for Obama to channel his inner Machiavelli. At least a little bit. I realize that Jesus is likely Obama’s model of behavior, and I realize that it probably isn’t in his nature to actually apply Machiavellian principles of princely behavior to his presidency.

However, I suggest that perpetually “turning the other cheek” in today’s political environment will lead to failure.  And it didn’t work out too well for Jesus, either.  His earthly career ended in ignominy, hanging from a crossbeam outside the city walls, naked and defeated.

While I am not asking Obama to fundamentally change his personality, I am asking him to at least consider two pieces of Machiavelli’s advice:

He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command.

It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.

Obama’s administration began with Rush Limbaugh’s famous, “I want Obama to fail” remarks and his flirtation with moving to New Zealand—which not one Republican politician had the balls God gave man to protest—continuing through Jim DeMint’s “Waterloo” comment, in which the creepy religious fanatic masquerading as a U.S Senator pledged that killing health care would be the end of Obama. 

Last summer, we endured the spectacle of so-called “angry” voters, who voiced such anger in terms fit for a World Wrestling Federation event.  We endured swastika-covered placards; voodoo-priest images; messages that Obama was a fascist, socialist, communist, and racist; charges that Obama was not a U.S. citizen, that his presidency was not legitimate and that he wanted to destroy America.  

To top it all off, we endured the embarrassment of a rude, unruly, disrespectful Congressman Joe Wilson shouting, “You lie!” during an Obama speech to a joint session of Congress.

Obama, of course, largely ignored the anger, at least publicly.  He, of course, accepted the congressman’s apology without highlighting the uncivility.  And, of course, last night Obama phoned Scott Brown, who defeated Martha Coakley, to “congratulate” him.

Why?  Why ignore the Tea Party anger?  Why accept Wilson’s apology without using it to embarrass those who hate Obama? Why congratulate Brown so soon? There would have been plenty of time to shake his hand and offer his congratulations. Why last night?

He congratulated a man who opposes nearly every social value that Obama holds dear; he congratulated a man who publicly suggested Obama was a bastard child; he congratulated a man who has pledged to join a small but fanatic group of Republicans who are hell-bent on seeing to it that Obama’s administration will be the failure that Rush Limbaugh famously wished for and predicted.

Why give such an unworthy opponent immediate recognition and instant credibility?

Anyway, we now have the spectacle of a teabagger capturing the seat of Ted Kennedy, who surely must be scratching and clawing on his coffin lid to get out and demand a do-over.  But ironically, despite a poor campaign and some gaffes by the Democratic candidate, Ted Kenney’s life-long issue—health care reform—proved to be the defining issue of the Brown-Coakley campaign.

That didn’t have to happen.

Because of a noble, cautious, protracted approach—apparently approved by Obama—that dragged on much too long in an attempt to attract conservatives in the Democratic Party, not to mention fringe Republicans like Olympia Snowe, we have what we have today.

Because the White House chose a behind-the-scenes strategy of influencing the outcome of the health reform legislation rather than an open and direct and emphatic defense of an acceptable bill, we have what we have today.

Because of a calculated recognition of the difficulty of overcoming conservative opposition in both parties and a desire to get something passed, no matter how feeble, we have what we have today.

Because from the start the White House took off the table a single payer option and signaled that a strong public option wasn’t even an essential part of reform legislation, we have what we have today.

So, I ask:  What did all the soft-sell strategy accomplish?  We all understood the reality of the situation: There were just too many damn conservatives in the Senate to get the best bill.  But my problem is that the White House didn’t even put up a goddamn fight for one.  Thus, the other side recognized a palpable weakness, and as the calendar advanced, wily conservative Democrats sensed the opportunity to game the process.

All of this confounded liberals, those who put Obama in the White House by actually going out and convincing the much-vaunted “independents” to vote for him.  And some liberals, pissed off that their candidate was not fighting hard enough, unwisely threw up their hands and said “let the bill die.”  Or at least began to stop aggressively defending it against the lies being told constantly by Republicans at Town Halls and Tea Parties, broadcast faithfully by the Obama-hating Fox “News” channel, whose perpetuation of falsehoods about the bill and the “Obama is dangerous” meme came to be less and less challenged, too.

Even the feeble attempt by the White House to challenge Fox “News,” which initially had such promise, withered under the criticism of “mainstream” journalists, who incomprehensibly defended the network, despite the fact that Fox is undoubtedly destroying the line between journalism and propaganda and thus undermining the very journalists willing to defend the network.

Finally, although no one knows how this mess will play out, I will offer President Obama one final piece of advice from Machiavelli:

Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.

Hopefully, in the times to come, Obama will move forward with less “turn the cheek,” “Jesus meek and mild” reactions and be more like the Jesus who threw the moneychangers out of the temple.

Because Obama’s political enemies seek not only his office, but seek to destroy him and the promise and legitimacy of liberalism.

A Heart Doctor With A Heart

Dr. John M. Cox, a cardiologist at Freeman Hospital, has written yet again on the subject of health care reform.  This time, he has commented on last month’s “prayercast,” which was an attempt by righteous Republicans to bring divine intervention into the health care reform process.

The prayercast event* featured a prayer by Tony Perkins, who, according to Frank Schaeffer, is the “well known paranoid and delusional moralist leader of the Family Research Council.”

The prayer included the following:

Life and death hinges on the Senate health care bill.

Now, a rational person might conclude that the succeeding invocation of the Almighty would include a petition that He might convince recalcitrant and gainsaying Republicans to get on board and make sure that the 45,000 folks who die each year because of a lack of insurance might have a “right to human life.”

Nope. The prayer continued:

We face significant threats to the God-given right to human life through government funding of abortions, our health from rationing, our family finances from higher taxes, and our general freedoms posed by the government plan to take over health care.

So, invoking the God of Tea Party Heaven, was actually a ploy to derail health care reform. 

That’s where Dr. Cox comes in:

I wonder if God is “for” insurance companies denying coverage to those with pre-existing illnesses. I wonder if God is “for” canceling insurance policies whenever individuals get sick. I wonder if God is “for” continuing to allow 35 million Americans to have no health insurance coverage. I wonder if God is “for” allowing many more people than died on 9/11 to die monthly because they cannot afford to get health care.

Apparently, Dr. Cox sings from a different hymnal than our Tea Party Holy Rollers:

In certain parts of this country, political theater is wrapped in Christianity. Politicians continue to cynically use the conservative Christian movement for their purposes. This is not about making people healthier. This is not about making insurance companies do the right thing morally. This is about scoring political points by a party who is, at present, out of power. The use of prayer vigils for this purpose sickens me.

Finally, Dr. Cox, the heart doctor with a heart, concluded with this flurry:

The proposed bills are not perfect. However, as I have stated before in previous communications, the status quo will quickly drive us off a cliff. All this anti-government rhetoric is just that. We all drive on government-built roads. Many of us already have government-funded insurance. Our skies are safer as a result of government air traffic controllers. Our country is a reasonably safe place in which to visit and travel because of government police and firefighters. When private industry chews people up and spits them out, it is the rightful place of government to try to make that right. Health insurance companies have not been our friends. I, for one, will applaud when something is finally done legislatively.

And I suspect so will the Almighty, notwithstanding the prayers of his “followers.”

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*For those interested, here is a list of some prayercast attendees, either in person or via video:

James Dobson: “I just pray that you will frustrate the plans of the Evil One.”

Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, who reportedly said the Pilgrims believed “that the Bible was a blueprint for all of mankind… to tell us about economics, to tell us about education, to tell us about government.” Obviously, the Pilgrims didn’t have the foresight to include health care.

Sen. Jim DeMint and Sen. Sam Brownback, who apparently believed that the valiant effort by the Senate’s 40 Republicans—to frustrate Democrats and confuse the public—needed supernatural tweaking.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who in a moment of personal clarity that she kindly expanded to include all of us, prayed:

“And we say oh Lord we deserve your wrath. But would you yet give our nation mercy? We ask for your mercy. We cry out to you oh God this is our moment and this is our time Lord. We are at the end of ourselves and now we need you. We need you Lord.”

Lord, have mercy, indeed.

Sabotage, Baby

Conservative and Republican apologists can blow all day about how the Becks, Hannitys, and Limbaughs, with their outrageous rhetoric and staggering hatred for anything Obama-tainted, do not represent sober conservatism or mainstream Republican politics.

They don’t speak for us, they claim.

Okay.

But here are three people who do: Rep. Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, and Sen. Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina.

Rachel Maddow had a segment last night that demonstrated why the GOP is, and should remain, in the dumpster of American politics, and why its “leaders” are objects of ridicule and scorn, fodder for bloggers like me.

Rachel-Maddow_lMs. Maddow, who is one of the smartest (and most humble) talking heads on television, began the segment with this:

As Republicans search for meaning in the political minority, as they try to beat a path out of the political wilderness, an increasing number of Republican leaders seem to be trying to compensate for their relative lack of power at home by flexing their muscles abroad. Republicans have been traveling to other countries to try to undermine the policies of the United States. You might call it anti-diplomacy.

She then points out that last June Congressman Kirk was in China telling the Chinese that they can’t trust the American government—read: the Obama administration—on its budget and deficit numbers.

A video clip of Kirk finds him saying this:

REP. MARK KIRK, (R) ILLINOIS: One of the messages I had-because we need to build trust and confidence in our number one creditor-is that the budget numbers that the U.S. government had put forward should not be believed.

So, there’s one Republican–not Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck–who a few months ago was in China telling them not to trust us.

Next up, Senator Jim Inhofe, the ultra-conservative and global warming atheist from Oklahoma. He is embarking, as a “one man truth squad” (his description), on a trip to Copenhagen to attend the U.N. Climate Change Conference. His message is a simple one: You can’t trust what the U.S. government—read: Obama administration—says about global warming.

“Country First,” anyone?  John McCain, are you out there anywhere?

Last is my personal favorite. Senator Jim DeMint, who in some ways is to the right of Rush Limbaugh, has just come back from a meeting with the dubious government of Honduras, a government that the U.S., along with most other countries in the world, does not recognize.

Maddow quoted DeMint’s description of his “very productive” meeting with the military government:

We saw a government working hard to follow the rule of law, uphold its Constitution, and to protect democracy for the people of Honduras.

As Rachel pointed out,

Senator DeMint is referring to a government that ushered its country’s democratically-elected president out of the country in his pajamas, a government that until today allowed police and soldiers to break up public meetings, arrest people without warrant and restrict the news media.

So, there you have it. These three elected Republicans—not Hannity, Beck, or Limbaugh—are actively undermining their government—sabotaging its foreign policy, albeit with moral support from the right wing radio rabble.

When GOP defenders claim that nutty conservative broadcasters don’t speak for the party, it’s only because there are plenty of nutty conservative politicians who do.

Darwin’s Wasp

In a year in which many of us celebrate both Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th birthday of the “Origin of Species,” it is apropos to use what some have called “Darwin’s wasp”—the Ichneumonidae—to make a point about the state of the Republican Party.

The parasitic wasp, which lays its eggs inside a caterpillar so that its larvae can feed on it, carefully guides its sting into each ganglion of the prey’s central nervous system, not to kill it, but to paralyze it, so that its offspring will have fresh meat to eat. The victim is literally devoured alive from the inside out.

Darwin found this situation incompatible with his religious beliefs. He wrote,

I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars.

The Republican Party, like the unfortunate caterpillar, is being devoured from the inside out.

Caustic conservative chatterers, from Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity to Glenn Beck, along with some extremist politicians like Sen. Jim DeMint and Rep. Joe Wilson, have attached themselves to the party and are, issue by issue, rant by rant, consuming its electoral life. They have effectively banished from the party moderates and patriots like Colin Powell, reasonable, moderately conservative writers like David Brooks or Sam Tanenhaus, and virtually anyone who dares to croon slightly off key in what has become a choir of fear, singing a menacing mantra: We hate Barack Hussein Obama.

Thus, the party of Lincoln is fast becoming a parochial, nationally irrelevant party.

In 1980 Ronald Reagan—in an electoral landslide—received 55% of the white vote. In 2008 John McCain—who lost by nearly 10 million votes—also received 55% of the white vote. What was the difference? The percentage of the overall electorate for white voters dropped from 88% in 1980 to 74% in 2008. So, while Republicans maintained their hold on white voters, the political clout of those voters had declined.

Understandably, Barack Obama had overwhelming support among African-Americans (95%) in 2008, but Republicans have otherwise struggled to attract more than 10% of black voters since Reagan’s 14% showing in 1980. Since then the percentage of black voters among the overall electorate has increased from 10% to 13%.

But the real tale is told by the Hispanic vote.

In 1980 Hispanics comprised only 2% of the electorate, and Jimmy Carter received 54% of their votes compared with 36% for Reagan. In 2008, Hispanics had grown to 9% of the electorate (a 450% increase), and John McCain—having forsaken his moderate position on immigration reform in favor of the hard-line conservative stance—received only 31%. Obama won 67% of the Hispanic vote.

Add to this that Asian-Americans are now 2% of the electorate (the same as Hispanics in 1980) and that Obama managed to garner 62% of their votes, and the picture becomes very clear.

No matter what Republicans may think about these trends, they cannot be ignored with impunity. It may be that conservatives these days are incapable of embracing a philosophy adjusted to fit the reality of changing demographics. Certainly, a staunch adherence to purist conservative doctrine plays well in places like Jasper and Newton counties in Southwest Missouri, or in the Old South, but it is a doomed strategy for long-term national Republican success, even if the party manages to make modest inroads in 2010.

Rather than acknowledge this reality and adjust their positions on the various issues accordingly, most Republican “leaders” are content to prostrate themselves before Rush Limbaugh’s Attila the Hun chair, and in one sycophantic spasm after another confirm that they are content with a regional appeal.

Joe Scarborough, the popular conservative host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” has written a book urging conservative Republicans to heed the advice of the founder of conservatism, Edmund Burke, who “had contempt for rigid ideologues of all stripes.” So far, such advice goes unheeded.

Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal—the scourge of contemporary conservatism—came to pass largely because of the alignment of otherwise disparate groups that ignored important, but comparatively marginal, differences in favor of gaining political power sufficient to win elections. From 1932 through 1964, this coalition of “big city” political machines, labor unions, minorities, progressives, and Southern whites, won seven of nine presidential elections, losing only to WW II hero, Dwight Eisenhower.

If Republicans hope to continue as a national party, they have to shout down the strident voices of conservative ideologues and submit to demographic reality. It is difficult to understand why there isn’t one leader in the party who will take on the obviously unhinged Glenn Beck, just to name one glaring example. But so far, none has assumed the mantle of leadership necessary to save the party from irrelevance.

In the early days of the 20th century conservative movement, William F. Buckley, a conservative and a Republican, gave the left foot of fellowship to the John Birch Society, who, he surmised, would ultimately prove lethal to the conservative cause. He did the same thing to the Objectivists, most especially Ayn Rand. Mr. Buckley much later had to call out conservatives like Pat Buchanan and Joseph Sobran, when they expressed opinions that appeared to embrace an anti-Semitic philosophy. In that regard, Buckley acted like a true father of the movement, an adult who had to call out phony or wayward conservatives in the name of preserving the conservative family and by extension the Republican Party.

There is no one in the conservative movement with the stature William Buckley enjoyed (before he embraced late in life and inexplicably, Rush Limbaugh), and there certainly appears to be no adults in the Republican Party, but perhaps there is someone out there with sufficient courage who is willing to take on the conservative bullies. We can only hope.

Darwin lost at least part of his faith because he could not imagine that God could create the Ichneumonidae and its seemingly cruel method of survival. For him, such cruelty seemed incompatible with decency.

Today, the parasitic wasps in the Republican Party—those who are using the party only to advance their extremist ideological causes with little regard for the party’s survival—may not cause many to lose faith in God, but the tolerance of such people by party leaders causes many of us to doubt their decency.

And sadly, while there are many caterpillars in which Darwin’s wasp can lay its eggs, there is only one Grand Old Party.

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COMMENTS:

juan don writes:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 06:10 PM

RDG,

Excellent post. The desert clime agrees with you.

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 anson Burlingame writes:

Thursday, September 17, 2009, 04:14 PM

Duane,

You wrote, “There is no one in the conservative movement with the stature William Buckley enjoyed …” I agree. Perhaps George Will comes close to Buckley’s intellect as to some degree does Thomas Sowell (knowing you don’t like the lader one bit).

I am also not at all aware of any left commentator today who meets the standards set by Buckley, or Will and Thomas for that matter. If there is one I would be the first to ask for his publication on a regular basis in the Globe.

As we all correctly ponder the issue of media bias, I look for thoughtful alternatives on the left but have difficulty doing so.

Any suggestions?

Anson

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Duane writes:

Thursday, September 17, 2009, 04:29 PM

Anson,

First, Thomas Sowell, who used to be semi-respectable as a columnist, has lost all credibility since Obama has come on the scene. He has repeatedly made oblique and sometimes not so oblique references to Obama and murdering dictators. Unacceptable.

You asked for a “couple” of suggestions on liberal columnists. Here is my “short” list:

Paul Krugman (Pulitzer economist and generalist) would offset George Will nicely.

Eugene Robinson (Pulitzer and wonderful writer)

Michael Kinsley (he used to appear regularly on Bill Buckley’s program).

Jonathan Alter

Frank Rich

E.J. Dionne, Jr

David Corn (from the Nation, a REAL liberal)

Eleanor Clift (who used to appear in the Globe, and whom I used to loathe)

Arianna Huffington (who with her popular online site would appeal to net surfers)

All of these names I sent to Carol back in July in hopes that one or two might regular appear in our paper.

Duane

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