John Boehner Finally Tells The Truth About His Party

John Boehner may not realize it, but he exposed his party for what it is.

This morning the Speaker of the House made this joke about his inability to get House Republicans to pass a debt ceiling increase:

You know, Mother Teresa is a saint now, but if Congress wanted to make her a saint, and attach that to the debt ceiling, we probably couldn’t get 218 votes for it.

Funny, right? Except not really. It’s kind of sad and pathetic. Here is the leader of Republicans in the House of Representatives, the people’s house, essentially saying that his party is so irresponsible that they aren’t fit to govern. And that is their leader talking.

In the Senate, word comes today that for the third time, Republicans, including Missouri’s Roy Blunt, have blocked passage of a bill that would have extended federal unemployment benefits to almost 2 million Americans. This time there were four Republicans joining the Democrats, but in the anti-democratic, filibuster-ruled Senate, 60 votes are needed to pass anything. One more Republican was needed to get the bill through, although even if it were to pass, there’s not much hope of getting it through the Tea Party-controlled House.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “I’m beginning to believe there is nothing that will get Republicans to yes.” He added later:

And every week [Republicans] delay, another 73,000 Americans lose these crucial benefits — benefits that help them keep food on the table and a roof over their heads while they search for a job.

It should come as no surprise that Republican Party Christians—who one of their own leaders just said would reject sainthood for Mother Theresa—don’t really give a damn about food on the table and a roof over the heads of desperate Americans.

“By Keeping Republicans Together,” John Boehner Did “The Country A Favor,” So Says Mark Halperin and Andrea Mitchell

I thought I was hallucinating. But I played it back on my DVR and it was all too real.

Wanna know why Republicans believe they can take the country to the brink of catastrophe and not pay a price for doing so? Because Beltway journalists like Mark Halperin and Andrea Mitchell will, without laughing, have this exchange on national television, on “liberal” MSNBC:

HALPERIN: The second guessing about Republicans, not just strategy but tactics throughout the last several weeks, are really gonna be extraordinary. There’s gonna be a lot of questioning about how to go forward. It’s gonna be interesting. I think Speaker Boehner has handled this in a way where he can put this on the floor, get a lot of Democratic votes. My hunch is that there are a lot of Republican votes in the Senate, which we expect. We could get a lot of Republican votes in the House and questions about his speakership, questions about his own leadership, I think may be put off.

And I think this agreement is not bad in the sense that it gives both sides a chance to try to deal with some of these bigger entitlement issues and tax issues over the next few weeks and averts the crisis. And John Boehner may have done himself and the country a favor by keeping Republicans together long enough to say, we tried a lot of different things; we made some mistakes. This is the best we can get at this point to avoid what he has said all along and believed all along was essential, which was to avoid a default by the federal government.

MITCHELL: Fair points all.

Anyone who has watched this debacle knows one thing for certain. John Boehner hasn’t handled this in any way that deserves one jot or tittle of praise. That he gets it from two Beltway reporters tells us so much about why right-wing zealots believe in their bones that they can hold the country hostage and get away with it.

Two Reasons Why Boehner Is The Problem

Before too many events intervene and before we get to the end of the shutdown-default mess—if there is an end to it—two flaws in John Boehner’s character, or at least defects in his ability to lead the House of Representatives, must be examined and remembered:

1. Boehner’s Word Isn’t His Bond

Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid revealed that Boehner had reneged on a private deal the two had previously made over the Continuing Resolution, the stopgap fund-the-government bill that didn’t get passed and led to the government shutdown. As The Hill reported:

Reid said Boehner never wanted to wage a protracted battle over ObamaCare as part of the negotiations to keep the government running.

“I know that that’s not the path he preferred,” Reid said. “I know that because we met the first week we came back in September and he told me that what he wanted was a clean CR and the $988 [billion] number. 

“We didn’t like the 988 number. We didn’t like it but we negotiated. That was our compromise,” Reid added. “The exact bill that he now refuses to let the House vote on. That was our negotiation.”

Moreover:

Reid said he didn’t have to twist Boehner’s arm to get a preliminary deal on a clean stopgap.

“He twisted mine a little bit to get that number,” Reid said.

“Now he refused to let his own party vote because he’s afraid to stand up to something he originally agreed to,” he added.

So, clearly Boehner’s word is no good and if a man’s word is no good how can anyone bargain with him? (The Speaker has had a pattern of such untrustworthy behavior. See here and here, for instance.)

2. Boehner’s Dishonesty Is Breathtaking

Before he shamefully began to demagogue the issue of the “exemption” from ObamaCare for Congress and its staff—which is not an exemption at all—Boehner personally and secretly asked Democrats for help in protecting the employer contribution for health insurance premiums (misleadingly called “subsidies”) for congressional lawmakers and staff (the staff members definitely in need of the employer contribution, even if some lawmakers, those with lots of money, aren’t).

First a little background on this ridiculous issue from USA Today:

During the 2010 debate over the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, proposed an amendment requiring members of Congress and their staffs to purchase health insurance though state exchanges. Democrats, viewing the amendment as a political stunt, co-opted the idea as their own and inserted it into the bill.

But the provision was silent about who would pay for that insurance, or how those payments would be treated. The exchanges were intended for uninsured people who couldn’t get health insurance through their employer or qualify for Medicaid. Those who had access to health benefits meeting minimum coverage levels could still purchase insurance on the exchanges — but without a subsidy and using after-tax income.

Holding members of Congress and their staffs to that standard would have the effect of stripping them of the employer-paid health coverage they currently get, which is the same as any other federal employee. So the Office of Personnel Management issued a proposed rule in August making clear that the government would continue to pay the employer contribution for congressional health benefits at the same rate as if members were still on the federal plan.

Grassley now says that was his intent all along. “My goal, regardless of how the amendment was worded … was that we need to go into the exchange so that we would have to go through the same red tape as every other citizen,” he told Roll Call Thursday. But because of what Grassley called a “drafting error,” the amendment left out language that would have explicitly given lawmakers the same before-tax employer contribution as any other federal employee gets.

Some of Grassley’s Republican colleagues have a different interpretation. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., introduced an unsuccessful amendment to the spending bill that would have required members of Congress to pay the full cost of their health care.

What ultimately caused this demagogue-friendly problem is that Democrats foolishly allowed Grassley’s ill-conceived and poorly-written amendment to become part of the law and when it became clear how confused and confusing the amendment was, members of both parties sought to get relief from its potential impact. But the demagogues, like David Vitter and others, saw a political advantage in exploiting the confusion. Enter John Boehner. Politico reported:

With the federal government nearing shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner stood on the House floor Monday and called on his colleagues to vote for a bill banning a “so-called exemption” that lawmakers and staffers receive for their health insurance.

“Why don’t we make sure that every American is treated just like we are?” Boehner asked, seeking to prohibit members of Congress and Capitol Hill aides from getting thousands of dollars in subsidies for their health insurance as they join Obamacare-mandated insurance exchanges.

Yet behind-the-scenes, Boehner and his aides worked for months with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and others, to save these very same, long-standing subsidies, according to documents and e-mails provided to POLITICO. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was also aware of these discussions, the documents show.

So, we have the Speaker privately doing one thing and publicly doing another, cynically using hard-working congressional staff members as pawns in the game he is playing on behalf of Tea Party crazies.

Given these two stunning examples of a lack of integrity and a lack of honesty on the part of the Speaker of the House, Democrats should have little sympathy for him and should continue to let him twist in the wind of condemnation that is blowing into the Republican House. We can only hope that the Speaker will, in the end, have enough patriotism in his bones not to let the country default on its obligations, even if he has defaulted on his.

Barack Obama: Republican Savior?

“We’re not going to pass a clean debt limit increase.”

—John Boehner, October 6, 2013

Clearly, as MSNBC’s Chuck Todd and others suggested this morning, Republicans have poll-tested the word “conversation,” as applied to the sad impasse in Washington. John Boehner used that word around twenty times during his squirmy 14-minute appearance on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. I took the time to string together his use of the word in order to demonstrate how desperate the Speaker now is:

…we asked to sit down with the Senate and have a conversation…that the leaders will sit down and have a conversation…We’re interested in having a conversation…it begins with a simple conversation…It’s about having a conversation…It’s time for us to sit down and have a conversation…Let’s sit down and have a conversation…It’s not their fault that the leaders in Washington won’t sit down and have a conversation…The president is saying, I won’t negotiate. I won’t have a conversation…Even though President George Herbert Walker Bush had a conversation about raising the debt limit…The nation’s credit is at risk because of the administration’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation…And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us…And the president is putting the nation at risk by his refusal to sit down and have a conversation…My goal here is not to have the United States default on their debt. My goal here is to have a serious conversation about those things that are driving the deficit and driving the debt up. And the president’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation about this is putting our nation at risk of default…The president canceled his trip to Asia. I assumed — well, maybe he wants to have a conversation…I’m willing to sit down and have a conversation with the President…I’m not going to raise the debt limit without a serious conversation…I’ve been willing to sit down with the president and have this conversation...George, I’m ready for the phone call. I’m ready for a conversation...

That’s about one and a half per minute! How embarrassing was that appearance? How weak is this Speaker? How dumb is he? Or, rather, how dumb does he think we are?

Republicans in the House started all this madness with a weird jihadist desire to defund and destroy ObamaCare, then they said they would settle for delaying it, and now they say all they want to do is talk to Democrats, or to put it in the revealingly passive construction favored by Boehner, “have a conversation.”

Yikes. John Boehner is a pitifully puny leader whose desperation is apparent to all, except maybe himself. And what he is really asking President Obama to do is to bail him and his Tea Party friends out of a jam, a dangerous jam that threatens to wound the country for a generation or more.

How ironic it is that establishment extremists in the Republican Party need the Scary Negro in the White’s House to make some kind—any kind—of “deal” to get them off the hook and save them from Ted Cruz and the other anti-establishment extremists in the GOP.

How delicious it is that Barack Hussein Obama holds in his socialist, Kenya-birthed hands the fate of the Grand Old Party, which would surely suffer incalculable damage from the economic disorder and chaos its members say they are about to bring upon Americans.

Speaker Boehner confirmed—yes, he confirmed—Stephanopoulos’ characterization of a Treasury Department report saying that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be “unprecedented and catastrophic,” that “credit markets could freeze,” that “the value of the dollar could plummet,” that “U.S. interest rates could skyrocket,” that “the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world,” and that “there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse.”

Stephanopolous asked Boehner, “Do you agree with that assessment?” And the Speaker replied: “I do. And the President is putting the nation at risk by his refusal to sit down and have a conversation.”

Yes, it’s all in the President’s hands. If he would only sit down and talk it would all be over. It’s that simple, said Boehner. Except, of course, it isn’t.

We all know that establishment Republicans are hoping that the President, at the last minute or before, will swoop in with some concession and save them from themselves, from their cowardice, from their failure to stand up in force to the Tea Party nuts they have so willingly used to endlessly attack the President since his election in 2008.

Political pundits are fond of talking about the extremism of a “small” group of Tea Party Republicans in the House. But these pundits rarely make the point that it is Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Roy Blunt and other establishment players that make possible the antics of teapartiers. Establishment Republicans are deathly frightened of what Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity will say about them if they dare to loudly and publicly call out the extremism and stupidity of the anti-establishment zealots that are leading their party, and possibly the country, to ruin. So, they need Barack Obama’s help.

And the President should not help them. I repeat: he should not help them.

Establishment Republicans should do the dirty but necessary work themselves or else risk sullying their party’s name and reputation for years, and elections, to come. A Democratic President should not be the savior of an out-of-control Republican Party, many members of which don’t give a damn about the welfare of the country if it means abandoning their ideological Allah.

The American people finally, if painfully, need to find out what has happened to a once-proud political party, the party, for God’s sake, of Abraham Lincoln. And Americans, many of whom are still suffering from the foolishness of Republican economic philosophy, need to know just how far this very non-Lincolnesque party is willing to go in service to a very strange and destructive god.

What Would Ronaldus Magnus Do?

The segment below from Saint Rachel Maddow pretty much says it all about the irresponsibility of not raising the debt ceiling and how none other than Ronald Reagan dealt with the half-nuts in his own party who thought about using the threat of default as a political instrument in the 1980s. Democrats should talk about this, leftish bloggers should post this, liberal columnists should write about this, until we are safely, if we can get safely, past this artificial, ideologically-inspired crisis.

And by the way, Democrats should dope-slap the next dumb-ass journalist who says John Boehner an Mitch McConnell have “tough jobs.” They don’t. People who shovel asphalt for a living without health insurance have tough jobs. There ain’t a damn thing tough about keeping the country from defaulting, from stopping the ideological terrorists from blowing up the economy.

All Boehner has to do is allow a clean debt-ceiling bill to come to a vote in the House—it will pass with Democratic votes and a handful of sane Republicans—and all McConnell has to do is tell his Tea Party colleagues to STFU and let the bill pass, all the while encouraging yet another handful of sane Republicans to vote with Democrats to overcome a filibuster.

After all, the worst that can happen to either of them—loss of their jobs—is nothing compared to what will happen to the country if the suicide bombers get close enough to the full faith and credit of the United States to blow it up.

And if the two Republican leaders aren’t patriotic enough to risk their government jobs for the well-being of the country, may they be forever cursed with listening to never-ending audio loops of IQ-killing Sarah Palin and Ivy League-deflating Ted Cruz defending Jesus-loving Rush Limbaugh’sgreat time in the Dominican Republic,” compliments of a secret supply of Satan-sanctioned, sausage-swelling, slut-seducing Viagra. Amen.

Watch:

Anarchy, The Republicans’ “War On Everyone,” And The Folly Of Beltway Journalists

I watched this morning as John Boehner, not content with leading a GOP war against women, minorities, and LGBT citizens, announced a War on Everyone! House Republicans will, by God, defund ObamaCare or shut down the government or blow up the economy or both! Yippee! say TV and print journalists and pundits everywhere, who love the “gamesmanship” and “brinkmanship” angle of these stories, as opposed to accurately and frequently reporting on exactly who has the dynamite in their hands.

Boehner said:

We’re going to continue to do everything we can to repeal the president’s failed health care law.

Since I have a habit of taking extremists at their word, I believe “everything” means, well, “everything.”

I also had the great pleasure of watching C-SPAN this morning as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid more than once referred to House members as “anarchists,” and also said about “forty percent” of Senate Republicans were anarchists, too. He also said this:

We’re now waiting to see what the House of Representatives is going to do, how absurd it’s going to be, what they’re going to send us. We know it’s going to be something really strange and weird because the speaker has to do everything he can to mold a piece of legislation that will meet the needs of the tea party — the anarchists — and I say that without any equivocation. They do not want government to work on any level.

Finally someone in the Democratic Party leadership has described in one word, one wonderful word, what Tea Party Republicanism is all about.

For his part, although it was lost in all the wall-to-wall (and mostly inaccurate) coverage of the Navy Yard tragedy, President Obama had something to say on Monday about the dangerous strategy that John Boehner today confirmed Republicans would pursue:

Congress’s most fundamental job is passing a budget.  And Congress needs to get it done without triggering another crisis, without shutting down our government, or worse — threatening not to pay this country’s bills.  After all the progress that we’ve made over these last four and a half years, the idea of reversing that progress because of an unwillingness to compromise or because of some ideological agenda is the height of irresponsibility.  It’s not what the American people need right now…

I cannot remember a time when one faction of one party promises economic chaos if it can’t get 100 percent of what it wants.  That’s never happened before.  But that’s what’s happening right now. 

You have some Republicans in the House of Representatives who are promising to shut down the government at the end of this month if they can’t shut down the Affordable Care Act.  And if that scheme doesn’t work, some have suggested they won’t pay the very bills that Congress has already run up, which would cause America to default on its debt for the first time in our history and would create massive economic turmoil.  Interest rates on ordinary people would shoot up.  Those kinds of actions are the kinds of actions that we don’t need…

But in case there’s any confusion, I will not negotiate over whether or not America keeps its word and meets its obligations. I will not negotiate over the full faith and credit of the United States.  This country has worked too hard for too long to dig out of a crisis just to see their elected representatives here in Washington purposely cause another crisis. 

Let’s stop the threats.  Let’s stop the political posturing. Let’s keep our government open.  Let’s pay our bills on time.  Let’s pass a budget.  Let’s work together to do what the American people sent us here to do:  create jobs, grow our economy, expand opportunity.  That’s what we need to do.

Meanwhile, even as Speaker Boehner ignored Obama’s unequivocal, “I will not negotiate over the full faith and credit if the United States,” as well as his plea to “stop the threats,” and with the threat of sabotaging the entire economy hanging over our heads, I have heard and read several political journalists attack the President. Yes, attack the President.

These political journalists, from New York to D.C. and beyond, are strange folks who are fascinated not by policy matters—which affect everyday people in the country—but by process matters—which don’t affect anyone but do provide something for the chattering class to chatter about. They have relentlessly criticized the President for his “messaging problem,” for not winning enough PR victories, for “dithering” and looking “indecisive” over Syria, among other things.

From Andrea Mitchell to Chuck Todd to Mark Halperin to John Heilemann to Ruth Marcus to Maureen Dowd, the columnist other journalists and TV personalities love to quote, I have heard the equivalent of Dowd’s recent claim, which she has repeated frequently, that the President’s style is not up to the job, that he “cannot seem to connect anymore.”

This morning, after Dowd’s ridiculous column was cited on MSNBC several times, I heard the new managing editor of Time magazine, Nancy Gibbs, say that the President seems “off his game.” Huh? This is a game? All this stuff is just a PR sport for Beltway insiders, including journalists and politicians, to opine on, when the Great Black Communicator is perceived as not getting the message just right by Washington, D.C.’s, or Marureen Dowd’s, standards? Oh, Allah.

And we wonder why it is that Republicans feel emboldened, and if you listen to right-wing radio, they now feel giddy and emboldened, to carry out a plot to dynamite the economy in order to destroy Obama and ObamaCare.

Finally, I heard CNN’s John King say today that Boehner has one of the toughest jobs in Washington. Are you kidding? You mean it is tough to decide between blowing up the country and not blowing up the country? Is that tough? Is that a close call?

Apparently it is in the mind of journalists like John King.

A Very Stupid Game

Via his press conference on Monday, President Obama has now at least tried to educate the people (journalists don’t help much, though) as to just how damaging a failure to raise the debt ceiling would be (“the consequences of us not paying our bills…would be disastrous“).

He has also tried to educate the people (again, with little help from journalists) as to what the debt ceiling actually is: paying for spending already authorized (“These are bills that have already been racked up and we need to pay them“).

The President also laid out the two choices that Republicans are offering him, neither of which he says he will accept:

And so what we’re not going to do is put ourselves in a position where in order to pay for spending that we’ve already incurred, that our two options are we’re either going to profoundly hurt the economy and hurt middle-class families and hurt seniors and hurt kids who are trying to go to college, or, alternatively, we’re going to blow up the economy.  We’re not going to do that.

Ain’t gonna happen, he said. Rather than those two damaging options, President Obama spells out the two options Republicans really have:

So we’ve got to pay our bills.  And Republicans in Congress have two choices here:  They can act responsibly, and pay America’s bills; or they can act irresponsibly, and put America through another economic crisis.  But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.  The financial well-being of the American people is not leverage to be used.  The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. 

And they better choose quickly, because time is running short. 

There you have it. They can act responsibly or irresponsibly. It’s their choice.  And the President says he will not be a party to their recklessness, should they choose that route.

Which is exactly why Republican leadership, despite their rhetoric now, will find a way to pivot away from this disastrous debt-ceiling talk and on to a fight over the upcoming budget resolution.

They realize that the President is willing to give them the rope to electorally hang themselves, and most of them don’t even want to feel the noose around their necks, let alone hang up there for all to see, their political bodies swinging in the wind of public disgust.

Finally, if you read the transcript of that press conference, you will see that President Obama didn’t exactly rule out any unilateral executive action to raise the debt ceiling, should Republicans refuse to do so. He was pressed on this issue and, while it sounded like he wouldn’t go down that road, he left himself enough room to do so to avoid what he called “disastrous consequences” or, as he quoted John Boehner, “a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy.”

And really, given such stakes, what else could he do?

Here are a few clues from his presser as to why he just might take action on his own (emphasis mine):

So to even entertain the idea of this happening — of the United States of America not paying its bills — is irresponsible.  It’s absurd.

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…there are no magic tricks here.  There are no loopholes. There are no easy outs.  This is a matter of Congress authorizes spending.  They order me to spend…They lay all this out for me because they have the spending power.  And so I am required by law to go ahead and pay these bills. 

Separately, they also have to authorize the raising of the debt ceiling in order to make sure that those bills are paid.  And so, what Congress can’t do is tell me to spend X, and then say, but we’re not going to give you the authority to go ahead and pay the bills. 

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You do not go out to dinner and then eat all you want, and then leave without paying the check. And if you do, you are breaking the law.

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And the notion that Republicans in the House, or maybe some Republicans in the Senate, would suggest that “in order for us to get our way on our spending priorities, that we would risk the full faith and credit of the United States” — that I think is not what the Founders intended.  That’s not how I think most Americans think our democracy should work. 

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What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people — the threat that “unless we get our way, unless you gut Medicare or Medicaid, or otherwise slash things that the American people don’t believe should be slashed, that we’re going to threaten to wreck the entire economy.”  That is not how historically this has been doneThat’s not how we’re going to do it this time.

Obviously, President Obama cannot come out and say directly that he will not, as America’s chief executive, let the country default on its obligations. If he did so, it would empower Republicans to not raise the debt ceiling and then blame him for the unilateral action (some on the right have already suggested impeachment, should he do so).

So he has to play this part of this very stupid game with his cards close to his chest.

 

The Critical Few

I describe budgets as a tapestry: When it’s woven together, the picture amounts to our hopes and dreams of a nation.”

—Jack Lew, Obama’s chief of staff and reportedly his choice to be Treasury secretary

If Jack Lew becomes the next Secretary of the Treasury, he will have to deal directly with a Republican Party that, by all appearances, seems ready to do nasty things to the country.

But I have some doubts as to whether there is unanimity among Republicans in Congress to threaten the fiscal health of the country with a protracted battle over the budget. And it would take near-unanimity to pull off the caper of ruining the economy.

Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but if one thinks about it, there are now 55 members of the Democratic Conference in the Senate and only five Republicans would have to join them to stop any history-making attempt to wreck the country. Are there five GOP senators who care more about today’s America than tomorrow’s Grover Norquist?

Geeze, I hope so.

In the House, Democrats hold 201 seats. Only a handful of Republicans (and there are 15 of them who were elected in a district also won by President Obama in November) would be needed to stop the insanity. Are there seventeen or so Republican House members politically sane enough to vote with Democrats should it come to that? God only knows. And God only knows if Speaker Boehner would even let such a vote happen.

But these numbers indicate to me that Democrats can stand strong and not compromise away a jot or tittle of the integrity of what Ed Schultz calls “the big three,” Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

And besides hoping that there are a handful of Republicans who will refuse to become economic saboteurs, I am also hoping that Jack Lew—a veteran Democrat who first learned the ways of Washington under the sainted Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill—will be the kind of man that former Republican Senator and Budget Committee chairman Judd Gregg says he is:

He’s like a labor-union negotiator. He’s not going to give you an inch if he doesn’t have to. He’s a true believer in the causes. 

It may take a Democratic true believer to convince true-believing Republicans that he will let them, if they insist on fiscal chaos, go down the road to lasting infamy. And we can only hope that such a prospect will send chills down at least a critical few right-wing spines.

President Obama Has To Tell Americans The Truth

Even HuffPo is guilty of the “both sides are guilty” plague infecting the news bidness.  Anyone paying attention the last couple of years knows that it is Republicans, particularly Tea Party Republicans in Congress, who have caused the legislative gridlock and dysfunction in our national government. Yet, we have this from a left-leaning news outlet:

dysfunctionalThe message here and throughout the journalistic world—from which most Americans get their news—is that Republicans and Democrats have essentially an equal share of the blame for the inability to govern the country, which, of course, gives Republicans some (limited) cover to continue to do their dirty work.

Personally, having given up on mainstream journalists to tell Americans what is really going on in Washington, I am beginning to blame President Obama, who alone can command the focused attention of the media, for not making it clear each and every day what it is that Republicans are willing to risk and the reason they are willing to risk it.

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell routinely blast the President and Democrats, and rarely does the President respond in kind. Being Lincolnesque has its place, but now it is time to become the Lincoln who would not tolerate rebellion, even if in this case it is only the Republicans’ refusal to responsibly govern.

If necessary, he should execute a plan to visit John Boehner’s Ohio and Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky and all the congressional districts of the zany Republicans in the House who are most to blame for the dysfunction we see. Since reasoning doesn’t seem to have an effect on these Republicans, perhaps national embarrassment will.

Whatever the case, an aggressive Obama, who is willing to forcefully explain to the country the real dynamics behind that word “dysfunction,” and willing to defend popular entitlement programs against a Republican minority who feverishly want to cut the hell out of them, should tell Republicans today that he has offered his last “deal,” that he will stop giving in to their unreasonable demands and, in a word, tell them to take it or leave it.

And remind them that he will tell anyone who will listen just whose fault it is that the country will face yet another recession.

Remarks And Asides

All you need to know about the NRA:

The National Rifle Association exists to assist the manufacturers of guns and gun-related accoutrements in selling guns and gun-related accoutrements to people. That is their job, summed up, in its entirety.

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Via HuffPo:

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Mr. Obama repeatedly lost patience with the speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn’t reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault.

Would to God he would tell the public that Republicans are at fault, and not just for not reaching an agreement on the fiscal cliff. They are threatening the country with yet another fight over the debt ceiling. When will Mr. Obama realize that he has to thoroughly decimate the current Republican Party in hopes that a new one will put the country’s interests before the interests of the moneyed class?

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Speaking of John Boehner, the Republican-friendly pollster Rasmussen has found that Boehner is “the least-liked major congressional leader.”  That same Republican-friendly pollster found “that 57% of likely U.S. Voters at least somewhat approve of President Obama’s job performance.,” and that “most Americans (55%) favor a ban on assault weapons.”

To note even more good polling news, CNN found that,

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed they view the policies of the GOP as too extreme, up 17 points from two years ago. Only 37% say they view the polices of the Democratic Party as too extreme.

The bad news, of course, is that it is only 53%.  And that is where President Obama has a lot of work to do.

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In the who-could-have-seen-this-coming department:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A federal judge on Friday blocked a new Missouri law that requires insurers to exclude birth control coverage for moral objectors, ruling that it conflicts with an insurance mandate under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The temporary restraining order halts the Missouri law just three months after the Republican-led Legislature enacted it by overriding Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto.

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In the I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-in-the-21st-century department:

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A dentist acted legally when he fired an assistant that he found attractive simply because he and his wife viewed the woman as a threat to their marriage, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court ruled 7-0 that bosses can fire employees they see as an “irresistible attraction,” even if the employees have not engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong…An attorney for Fort Dodge dentist James Knight said the decision, the first of its kind in Iowa, is a victory for family values because Knight fired Melissa Nelson in the interest of saving his marriage, not because she was a woman.

It seems the dentist was getting turned on by the attractive assistant, who worked for him for ten years as a “stellar” employee, and after consulting with a Man of God—who agreed the woman should be fired—gave her the left foot of fellowship. Thus, to paraphrase the dentist’s attorney, a victory for family values is when a male boss can legally can a female employee for being a temptation he might not be able to resist, even with God’s help. No word in yet on why a family values deity would create a woman so tempting that even a God-fearing man could not resist her, but there is certainly bibllical precedent for it.

Next up: the Iowa Supreme Court will decide if God can create a rock too big for Him to move.

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From the shoe’s-on-the-other-foot file:don lemon

CNN’s Don Lemon discusses the possibility of profiling white men in an attempt to prevent gun violence and decrease the amount of mass shootings. Lemon argues that white males between the ages of 18 and 25 were behind nearly all recent mass killings.

Guest David Sirota (who wrote a provocative piece for Salon) was really the one making the point that if 70% of mass murderers weren’t white men, but say, African-Americans or Arabs, then we would be having a much “uglier” conversation.

Who can argue with that?

_______________________________________________

Finally, the right-wing’s cleverest intellectual has managed to blame the disintegration of the Republican Party on, who else, Barack Obama:

He had one objective. He came off a winning election, but he still had a recalcitrant House. He wants four years where he can have his own agenda that he can enact. He would be stopped by the House the same way the House stopped it in the last two years. What to do? To destroy the Republicans, to fracture them and to create a civil war in the House, which he has done. And how do you do it? By insisting, as he did, this is extremely clever, tactically on his part. Insisting that the one thing that they had to agree to was an increase on tax rates. 

So, there you have it. It’s not the embarrassingly reactionary extremists controlling the GOP. It’s not the wacko teapartiers who refuse to play nice with contemporary American civilization. It’s the fault of the black man in the White’s House, once again.

What a  Scary clever Negro is the President.

“Four Cents On The Dollar”

Missouri’s Claire McCaskill said on Meet the Press on Sunday:

I feel almost sorry for John Boehner. There is incredible pressure on him from a base of his party that is unreasonable about this. And he’s got to decide, is his speakership more important or is the country more important? And in some ways, he has got to deal with this base of the Republican Party, who Grover Norquist represents. And, you know, everybody’s elevated Grover—I mean, I met him for the first time this morning—nice to meet him—but, you know, who is he? Why is he this guy that is—has—has captured so much attention in this?

Indeed, wherefore Grover Norquist? Who is he?

In a reasonable world, in a world not dominated by corporate media’s need to keep a controversy blazing, Grover Norquist would be enjoying retirement today, perhaps rubbing bronzing lotion on Mitt Romney’s money, somewhere in a tropical paradise, instead of appearing on NBC’s Meet The Press.

Republicans, you see, particularly Republicans spouting Tea Party nonsense, got the left foot of fellowship from the American people on November 6, and it was partly—though not completely—a 2010 gerrymandering bonanza that kept several right-wing House zealots in their seats, Democrats having received a majority of all House election votes.

And the one issue that clearly separated Democrats from Republicans was the issue of tax increases on the wealthiest two percent of Americans. The voters, as we all know but are starting to forget, chose the Democratic view.

As it is, though, even if Grover Norquist wanted to go to a beach far, far away, he can’t. Journalists keep pretending that he is relevant to the conversation about the fiscal cliff, which is quickly turning into a conversation about how much austerity will be foisted on the American economy in the shortest time possible without hurting rich people.

And nobody speaks for the rich like Grover Norquist:

Tea Party II is going to dwarf Tea Party I,  if Obama pushes us off the cliff. Let’s not pretend who’s pushing us over the cliff.

No, let’s not pretend. Let’s not pretend that, if there is a cliff for us to go over in the short-term, it will be because Norquist and his friends in Congress are willing to push the country that way in service to their wealthy constituents. In fact, Claire McCaskill said so on Sunday:

There has to be a realization that if we do nothing, the Republicans are going to have to live with the fact that they were willing to stop a deal all over a tax rate for the top two percent of this country.

Yes, Republicans—and Republicans only—will have to live with that realization. Nothing—absolutely nothing—could be clearer, despite Norquist’s bluster, which is really a last-ditch effort to save his relevance as a Washington insider.

Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee and one of the smartest Democrats around these days, was also on with Grover Norquist:

Well, what’s happened now is that the president has put forward a plan. It’s transparent. It’s on the internet…Let’s be really clear on what the President has said. He wants to extend tax relief for hundred percent of American families and small businesses on their first 250 thousand dollars of income.

And what Republicans are saying is, nobody gets that tax relief unless folks over 250 thousand get the extra four cents on the dollar that they were getting compared to the Clinton tax rates. And I just don’t believe that the American people are going to accept the Republican position when we need to extend middle class tax cuts and get serious about our long-term deficit reduction.

Four cents on the dollar. That’s what most of this argument is about, my friends. Four cents on the dollar for folks who are doing quite well, thank you.

And thanks to mainstream journalism, thanks to the producers of shows like Meet the Press, we still have a whiny titmouse of a man named Grover Norquist on television doing his best to make sure, even if it fiscally imperils the country, those folks don’t have to pay that extra four cents on the dollar for every dollar they make over $250,000.

If Democrats can’t win this argument, either with Republicans or ultimately with the American people, then the country is going to hell anyway, fiscal cliff or not.

“The Beginning Of The Battle To Take Over The Republican Party”

I just noticed, via C-SPAN, that a bunch of bitter extremist conservative leaders got together after the election last week and told reporters at the National Press Club that what’s wrong with the Republican Party is that there aren’t enough bitter extremist conservatives in it.

The press event was led by Richard Viguerie, an influential conservative who has tried to help right-wing nuts take over the Republican Party for more than 50 years. To people like Viguerie, the GOP is merely “the most convenient vehicle through which to seek elective office.”

To give you an idea of what strange ideas whiz around in the noggin’ of Richard Viguerie, he thought that Rick Santorum was “the most electable conservative seeking the Republican nomination for President.” Yes, he really thought that.

Viguerie said last week:

The battle to take over the Republican Party begins today and the failed Republican leadership should resign. Out of last night’s disaster comes some good news, however. Conservatives are saying, “Never again are we going to nominate a big-government establishment Republican for president.”

As if he were reading from a script written by liberal Democrats who want the GOP to continue on its path toward national irrelevance, Viguerie elaborated:

Republicans never, ever win the presidency unless they nationalize the election around conservative principles and a conservative agenda…In choosing to ignore the conservative agenda, Romney chose not to follow the path that led to Republicans winning the White House seven out of the last eleven elections…

Now don’t get caught up on how delusional Viguerie is to think that Mittens actually ignoredthe conservative agenda,” an agenda he embraced so effectively that it helped bring him down (“self deportation,” anyone?). Viguerie said something more important, in terms of the internecine struggle that has begun over the future of the Republican Party: “The battle to take over the Republican Party begins today.”

The old conservative went on to demand the heads of Reince Priebus, John Cornyn, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and “other Republican leaders behind the epic election failure of 2012.” He then tossed Karl Rove out with the other consultant trash he considered unworthy of advising the Republican Party, saying “no one should give a dime to their ineffective super PACs such as American Crossroads.”

Despite all that, the real problem for Republican leaders, who can see that their party is becoming nationally unattractive, is related to the following Viguerie remarks, in which he reiterated what is at stake for movement conservatives:

The disaster of 2012 signals the beginning of the battle to take over the Republican Party, and the opportunity to establish the GOP as the party of small government, constitutional conservatism.

Viguerie, you see, doesn’t just want to share the Republican Party with other Republicans. He and other like-minded zealots want to take it over and completely remake it in the image of the Tea Party. That’s what “small government, constitutional conservatism” translates to.

In the mean time, some of the more establishment righties, like columnist and Foxer Michael Barone, said the Tea Party “brings some talented people into politics…but it also brings some wackos and weirdos and witches, and we put too many of them on the ticket.

As a Democrat, I am more than happy to stand back and watch Republicans figure out just who are the “talented people” and who are the “wackos and weirdos and witches.” It will be amusing to see Republicans turn on one another, attack one another, injure one another. They deserve the tumult they are going through, given how many of them tried to destroy President Obama by waging a war of slander against him and by slowing down the economic recovery so he couldn’t win a second term.

While those disgraceful actions didn’t stop Obama’s reelection, they did hurt the country, and given the confusion they created around next year’s fiscal policies, Republicans are still hurting the country.

These people have sown division and uncertainty, and, by God, they are, as a political party, reaping what they sowed.

Blinded By The White As I Watched The Convention

“I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”

—Rick Santorum, January 1, 2012

kay, it took about a twelve pack, but I made it through the night watching the evening speeches at the Republican National Convention.

Hopefully, you all had better things to do than spend an evening gazing at a sea of white conservatives, listening to sometimes angry white speakers tell us that the Scary Negro in the White’s House is robbing all the nice, hard-working whites and giving the booty to other lazy, scary Negroes.

That, my friends, was the one coherent theme of the night, once you cleared away the fog.

I will offer up a few observations on what I saw, after John Boehner declared that President Obama should be tossed out of the White’s House Bar and Grill for, uh, offering health insurance to those who don’t have it, or something like that. It was that kind of night.

Chris Christie‘s delivery of the keynote speech was, I think a fair-minded observer would say, at best angry and at worst pissed off. As was noted by many a commentator, he spoke mostly about himself, which is probably why he was in such a foul mood.

He said, less than lovingly,

We are demanding that our leaders stop tearing each other down…

He said that just before he started tearing down Democrats.

Christie also said,

Our seniors are not selfish.

He better hope they are if he wants Republicans to win in November, since his party is selling its Medicare overhaul to them by assuring the geezers they won’t have to suffer its effects but their children and grandchildren will.

Ann Romney, God love her, did her best to tell us why Mittens was fit to be president and why he will work harder than any human being in the history of the planet to ensure that, well, that, uh, uh….I’ll have to go check the transcript on that one. I’m not exactly sure why she thinks Mittens ought to be president.

The various governors who spoke spent most of their time noting their personal economic achievements, which is funny since those achievements came under a president they claim is asphyxiating economic achievement. More tortuous Republican logic I suppose.

Rick Santorum‘s speech was very special. It was special in this sense: If an atheist wanted to advance incontrovertible evidence that there was no God, it might be the fact that Santorum managed to tell that fact-checked lie about Obama gutting welfare reform without being struck by a rather large and deadly bolt of heavenly lightning straight from the hand of the being who reportedly said,

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

But—I am now speculating—that since Santorum was not fried by divine outrage, there must have been some Talmudic technicality employed here, like, say, that Barack Obama, not being born in America, is not really a “neighbor.” God, as we all know, is a stickler for technicalities like that.

In any case, my favorite, and I assert most representative speaker of the night, was someone named Janine Turner, an actress and “talk show host” I confess I had never heard of. Her presentation pretty much set the tone for this night at the convention, and it nicely sums up what most Republicans actually think about government and the president who leads it.

She began my evening of beer-enhanced entertainment with what can only be described as a call to arms, delivered in a very creepy manner. When a Republican begins an address with, “Hello my fellow patriots!” then you know Democrats are about to be assaulted with both barrels.

Ms. Turner commenced her attack on Democrats with a lie, the substance of which was repeated in some form or another by nearly every subsequent speaker and a lie that deserves some space to refute. First the lie:

Our Constitution guarantees us a republican form of government in Article 4, Section 4, but our liberal brethren, they don’t feel constrained by our Constitution—that’s convenient for them—by ignoring constitutional limits they do what ever they like, don’t they? Yes! Like grow the government to unbelievable and unsustainable heights and accumulate historic and catastrophic debt.

Now, I’m not exactly sure how high liberals would like to see government grow. It is entirely conceivable that they would like to see it grow to “unbelievable and unsustainable heights,” although Republicans have set a standard that Democrats will have a hard time surpassing.

But the problem for Ms. Turner’s thesis that liberals have accumulated “historic and catastrophic debt” and that they want a very tall and unsustainable government is that it so happens the very right-wing Washington Times, which I am sure is part of Janine Turner’s bathroom reading regimen, began a story in October of 2008 with this wonderful paragraph:

George W. Bush rode into Washington almost eight years ago astride the horse of smaller government. He will leave it this winter having overseen the biggest federal budget expansion since Franklin Delano Roosevelt seven decades ago.

Ouch!

The story goes on to note,

Mr. Bush already is the first president in history to implement budgets that crossed the $2 trillion a year and $3 trillion a year marks. His final budget, which comes to an end Sept. 30, conceivably could near $4 trillion, depending on the final tab for the financial rescue.

The Washington Times article also included this:

…federal budget numbers show spending under the Bush administration rose from 18.4 percent of GDP to 22.5 percent – a 4.1-point increase – and could end up even higher.

The only presidents to approach that level of growth were President Carter, who grew spending as a percentage of GDP by 1.5 points, and President Ford, who grew it by 1 point. Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton all decreased spending relative to the overall economy.

Measured in dollars, “Federal spending has grown twice as fast under President Bush as under President Clinton,” said Mr. Riedl of the Heritage Foundation.

Hmm. But there’s more:

As a result of all this spending, the country has gone from a $128 billion budget surplus when Mr. Bush took office to a deficit of at least $732 billion in fiscal 2009, according to OMB. The final 2009 deficit likely will be even higher.

Of course the deficit was higher—much higher—and it is that trillion-dollar-plus deficit that Mr. Obama inherited and with which we still live today, thanks largely to Republicans, who cut taxes and went on a spending binge.

So, that’s that.

But Ms. Turner’s real point—and the subtextual theme for the night—was yet to come:

Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Yes. But today Obama enabled an entitlement society that says, “Give me liberty and gimme gimme.” Why? Because Democrats depend on dependence. America was not born with a gimme-gimme mentality and American liberty cannot survive with a gimme-gimme mentality. America was built with her hands at work, not with her hands out…

Free enterprise has paved the way for Americans to earn their own success and it has created an America that has yielded an unprecedented level of progress. This progress has lifted up humanity to greater heights of living and a greater level of dignity. Mitt Romney will preserve this exceptional American legacy.

Barack Obama? Barack Obama will destroy it. Obama is stifling the American Dream primarily because it isn’t his dream. His dream is not of an independent people. His dream is of a dependent people based on the failed principles of antiquated government.

You see? Obama, the “food stamp president,” doesn’t dream the same kind of dream those white folks in that Tampa convention center dream. In fact, he not only doesn’t dream their dream—the American Dream—he is actively seeking to “destroy” their dream, to take what they have worked so hard for and give it to those lazy folks with their “gimme, gimme” hands out, their greedy, undeserving—and pigmented—hands.

The Politics Of Hooterville

This may come as a surprise to folks who don’t live in Jasper and Newton counties in Southwest Missouri, but next week’s local primary election winners will not have to worry about the general election, since there won’t be any Democrats running against them. None.

Oh, there will be one disputed race in November, but it will feature a battle between a Republican and a Libertarian, and nobody but next-of-kin knows who the Libertarian is.

The folks around here who make such one-sided politics possible are exactly the kind of people who national Republicans aim to please. Romney’s entire campaign is designed around winning their hearts and minds, even though they wouldn’t vote for a Democrat under any circumstances, at least a Democrat worthy of the name.

And consider what happened on the final meaningful day of legislative activity this summer in the House of Representatives. Republicans used it to convince their base—like those who live here in Hooterville—that the most important issue facing the country is whether English should be our official language.

Yes, friends, that is more important than the $100 billion farm bill—Drought? What drought?—and the defaulting Postal Service—who cares about the core of a $900 billion industry and 9 million jobs when there’s folks out there speaking Spanish!

It has been almost 600 days since Speaker John Boehner said this:

Helping Americans get back to work is our number one priority, and we’re going to do everything we can to help create jobs and to boost our economy.

Since then there have been repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and countless attempts to appease anti-choice and other reactionary forces in the country and, oh yeah, I almost forgot. Republicans have addressed one concern of the Postal Service:

60 House Bills to Name Post Offices, Zero To Fix Mail Service

In tfhe 18 months the 112th Congress has been sworn in, the House has introduced 60 bills to rename post offices.  Thirty-eight have passed the House and 26 have become law. During those 18 months, the House has produced 151 laws, 17 percent of which have been to rename post offices, according to Congressional Democrats.

Oh, well, the most important thing for Republicans is not to govern the country but to keep their base happy and to wonder why the rest of us don’t like them—or Mittens:

General Motors: Political Ingrate

If you don’t find the following not only offensive but damned depressing, you have thicker skin than I do:

Members of Congress who voted against the auto bailout are getting campaign money from an unlikely source — General Motors, the biggest recipient of auto bailout money.

GM’s political action committee has donated $43,000 to House members who voted against the bailout in 2008, according to OpenSecrets.org. That’s roughly the same amount it’s given to House members who voted in favor of the bill…

The automaker’s political fund has also given $2,000 to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was a vocal opponent of the bailout and prevented a bailout bill from passing in the Senate. Corker said he thought the United Auto Workers union had too much bargaining power during the bailout. Union workers booed Corker during an appearance at GM’s Tennessee plant.

GM has made three separate $10,000 donations to individual candidates this year. Two of those candidates, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), voted against the bailout. The third, Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.) voted in favor. Camp is the chairman of the Ways and Means committee.

GM said its donations are consistent with its business strategy.

Apparently it is lost on the brilliant honchos at GM that if it were up to Republicans, they wouldn’t have a business to strategize about. Man, oh man.

The final blow:

GM’s campaign donations are heavily weighted in favor of Republicans. During this campaign cycle, it has donated $62,500 to Republicans and $34,300 to Democrats.

The Real Muslim Conspiracy

Look, it is obvious that congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a nut’s nut, is a very sick woman. But her conspiracy-laden, paranoic mind couldn’t do the country much harm if it weren’t for folks like John Boehner, who appointed her, for God’s sake, to sit on the House Intelligence Committee.

And her paranoia would mostly go unnoticed, if it weren’t endorsed and spread far and wide by people like Glenn Beck, who said on Thursday:

There are a few people in Washington D.C. that I trust and tell the truth…Michele Bachmann is one of them…

One of the Beckian truths that Bachmann is still telling, despite a scolding by John McCain, is that our government is being infiltrated by double naught Muslim Brotherhood spies, one of whom may be Hillary Clinton’s long-time aide, Huma Abedin. The truth is, though, that our government, particularly the House of Representatives, has been infiltrated by some folks with double naught IQs.

As Salon pointed out, Michele Bachmann, who is taking much of the criticism for slandering Huma Abedin, is not the only one who signed onto letters demanding investigations of five national security agencies. One of those other nuts is a man named Louis Gohmert, needless to say a Tea Party Republican from Texas. Gohmert warned just a few short years ago that Muslim terrorist babies—yep!—were invading us:

It appeared they would have young women who became pregnant [and] would get them into the United States to have a baby. They wouldn’t even have to pay anything for the baby. And then they would return back where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists. And then one day, 20, 30 years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life.

Yes, I know. It sounds like I’m just making that up, a fine piece of satire. But I’m not making it up, just like I’m not making up what Gomer, uh, I mean Gohmert said today about the killings in Aurora, Colorado:

You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of a derelict takes place…People say … where was God in all of this? We’ve threatened high school graduation participations, if they use God’s name, they’re going to be jailed … I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present.

If God had a protective hand, surely he would use it to slap some sense into people like Louis Gohmert and Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck, wouldn’t he? I mean I can’t think of a better use of his hand than that.

But the sad fact about all this is that even paranoics have enemies. As Nina Burleigh pointed out, there is something to worry about in terms of a global Muslim conspiracy, and the latest nuttery from the right-wing draws attention away from it and even undermines an understanding of it:

There is a kernel of truth to Bachmann’s paranoia. If she really cared, she could start looking at America’s good friend, Saudi Arabia, which, according to political scientist Alexi Alexiev, spent over $80 billion between 1973 and 2002 creating a worldwide network of Wahhabi mosques, Islamic centers, madrassas, and charities “that constitute the actual infrastructure of Islamic extremism worldwide,” including in many Western cities. Among the recipients of Saudi money are the Afghan Taliban and Islamic fundamentalists as far away as Indonesia. “This truly colossal sum” Alexiev told a Congressional committee, was “the largest worldwide propaganda campaign ever known.”

Saudi Arabia’s publicists and agents in the United States and on K Street include highly paid men in fine suits and savvy blonde PR girls who tote expensive designer bags and sport gold earrings snagged during layovers in Dubai. They have American and British accents and names that Bachmann’s constituents at Lake Woebegone can pronounce. Some of them have probably even walked through the Capital Hill offices of the intelligence expert and Congresswoman from Minnesota.

Note: Before some of you, especially my liberal friends, criticize me for including the above quotation, please read “The Global Spread of Wahhabi Islam: How Great a Threat?” as well as this article by Thomas Friedman, then we can have a discussion.

Tax Cuts

President Obama’s logic is unassailable, regarding his proposed extension of only the middle class tax cuts enacted under W. Bush:

…we all say we agree that we should extend the tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people.  Everybody says that.  The Republicans say they don’t want to raise taxes on the middle class.  I don’t want to raise taxes on the middle class. So we should all agree to extend the tax cuts for the middle class.  Let’s agree to do what we agree on.  Right?

Well, right? Who can’t see the logic in that? This who:

A spokesman for John Boehner said of a threatened presidential veto of a bill that extended the middle class cuts but also included an extension of tax cuts for the wealthy:

We’ve heard it all before, but the president has even fewer Democratic allies in Congress than he did two years ago, when he signed a full extension. No one believes the president would really derail our economy just to fulfill his quixotic desire for small business tax hikes.

A spokesman for Mitch McConnell said:

It’s certainly interesting that the president’s commitment to raising taxes on nearly a million small businesses would extend to him vetoing a bill that, to get to his desk, would have passed in both a Republican House and a Democrat Senate.

Whether Republicans will get away with, as Mr. Obama said, holding the middle class hostage once again in order to protect the wealthy from tax rates that existed under a prosperous Clinton administration, remains to be seen. That will ultimately be up to those 98 percent of the American people who will get the middle class tax cut.

But I want to note here that of those 98 percent, about half of them can’t wait to sprint into a polling station in November and pull the lever for Romney and the Republican Party, which has time and again elevated the welfare of the wealthy over the welfare of the middle class and which has implicitly threatened to bring down the whole American economic house if rich folks don’t get to keep their tax cut.

The reality that so many folks are willing to vote against their own economic interests, as well as the larger interests of the country, is depressing. No, let’s be honest. It is shameful.

Did Mr. Obama Lose His Way Last Summer?

Jonathan Chait wrote a disturbing—no, very disturbing—piece on the so-called Grand Bargain deficit-reduction talks last summer. The piece was titled:

How Obama Tried to Sell Out Liberalism in 2011

Chait’s commentary was based on a Washington Post story—also disturbing—allegedly detailing President Obama’s failure—yes, unbelievably, that is the way the story frames it—to get a budget deal with Boehner and the Republicans, as the debt-ceiling limit was purposely and purposefully expiring.

Remember all that senselessness and stupidity we went through? Remember how Republicans yet again held the country hostage and engaged in economic jihad to protect the wealthy and cut entitlements?

It turns out that our man in the White House—who a few months earlier had made a very courageous decision to kill Osama bin Laden—may have been just as courageous in his willingness to send liberalism to the bottom of the sea.

That is, if the Post story is completely accurate. There is a weaselly “appeared to accept” at a crucial place and the story does include a pushback from the White House, most notably a denial that it ever agreed to the Republican economic fiction—a piece of trash conservatives never tire of peddling—that reducing tax rates stimulates economic growth and thus increases revenue.

The whole Post narrative is hard to believe, mainly because I don’t want to believe it. But admittedly there does appear to be a large amount of truth to it, a truth rooted in another truth we liberals have to keep relearning: Mr. Obama, for all the good he has done—and there has been a lot of good—is not Bernie Sanders.

As Jonathan Chait points out,

It has previously been reported that Obama had offered to John Boehner to make a series of cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and the domestic budget, to reduce top-end tax rates, and to prevent the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, in return for increasing tax revenue (over current tax levels) by about $800 billion over ten years.

What we didn’t know until the Post story, was,

that even the $800 billion in tax revenue offered by Boehner was not, in fact, $800 billion in tax revenue..

That $800 billion, the Post reported, “came with strings attached,” including lowering the tax rate paid by wealthy Americans. That’s right. I said lowering the rich’s tax rates. But there’s more:

Much of the $800 billion  would have to come from overhauling the tax code — not from higher tax rates. The Republicans believed lower rates and a simpler code would generate new revenue by discouraging cheating and spurring economic growth. If the White House would agree to count that money, the Republican leaders said, then they might have a deal.

As Chait points out, any agreement based on Republican tax philosophy would insure,

that the burden of any higher revenue would fall on the non-rich.

Let that sink in. Let it permeate your progressive pores. Then absorb this:

Obama, incredibly, agreed to that — he agreed to a debt reduction plan that would exempt the wealthy from any sacrifice, and indeed protect them from the possibility that their tax rates would rise when the Bush tax cuts expire.

Now, never mind that even this sellout to conservative teapartyism wasn’t enough for conservative teapartiers, as Chait emphatically notes. They want a total rout. What we should be concerned about—particularly should there be a second term for Obama—is that the President did not tell the tea party hacks to get the hell out of his office, taking their oversize teabags with them.

Jonathan Chait put the matter in about as succinct terms as possible:

The central fiscal issue in American politics is the Republican Party’s insistence on cutting taxes for the rich everywhere and always with no compromise possible. The Post’s story suggests that there was zero progress on this impediment, and Obama wanted a deal so badly he wanted to proceed as if this could be ironed out in the details.

No. There is no ironing out differences with these people. There is no compromise possible with them. They are on a mission from a very strange God and nothing short of complete capitulation can be offered to them that they will feel compelled to accept. A compromise involves concessions on both sides. It means the other side has to move your way, accept things it doesn’t want to accept. But these tea party and tea party-ish folks are willing to hold out until our side completely submits, even if it means The End.

The way to combat these people, as Mr. Obama seems to have lately learned, is expose them. Hold up their regressive and regrettable ideas to the light—the American people—and let everyone see what fanaticism looks like, what unadulterated zealotry would beget if given the fertile ground of surrender.

But having said that, I am forced to confront the most frightening line in the Washington Post story about the Grand Bargain—and one I adamantly refuse to believe is true:

White House officials said this week that the offer is still on the table.

If that is true—and I won’t believe it until I hear it from Mr. Obama himself—then the leader of the Democratic Party has not only lost his way, he has lost his political mind.

Remarks And Asides

First, the good news: Kim Jong Il is dead. Now, the bad news: He had kids.

____________________________________

Speaking of troubling empires, Rupert Murdoch and his son are now facing suggestions that not only was their former paper, News of the World, illegally and routinely intercepting voicemails and tracking cell phones and hacking into computers and bribing cops, another Murdoch paper, The Sun, was too. 

However, it’s not clear to me that any of that stuff is worse than what Fox “News” does to Americans each and every day.

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Finally, I can agree with Newt Gingrich. 

He said he would be willing, as president, to send the Capitol Hill cops after judges he doesn’t like. “Or you would instruct the Justice Department to send the U.S. Marshal,” he offered as an alternative. 

He told Bob Scheiffer on Face the Nation this: 

You have an increasingly arrogant judiciary. The question is: Is there anything we the American people can do? The standard answer has been eventually we’ll appoint good judges. I think that’s inadequate.

I sure hope Mr. Obama is listening. What would Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas look like in orange jumpsuits? What wonderful jailhouse lawyers they would make.

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Speaking of things Newt got right, the one thing he really did get partially right was his critique of the Paul Ryan plan to throw Medicare and future mamas from the train. And, of course, the so-called moderate in the GOP race is rushing in to make sure voters know just how immoderate he is by bashing Gingrich for his once-sensible remarks.

During his first appearance on a Sunday talk show in 18 months, Mitt Romney said on, where else, Fox:

Are we going to deal with entitlement reform or not? Republicans came together, Paul Ryan was the author of the plan. But almost every single Republican voted for it, and the Speaker said this is ‘right-wing social engineering.’

Romney did offer some consolation to those without Romneyesque financial means:

Cutting welfare spending dramatically, I don’t think will hurt the poor.

Of course not, Mr. Moderate!

Romney, obviously, knows something about being poor. The New York Times reported today that Romney’s final deal with Bain Capital keeps giving and giving and giving: 

…he negotiated a retirement agreement with his former partners that has paid him a share of Bain’s profits ever since, bringing the Romney family millions of dollars in income each year and bolstering the fortune that has helped finance Mr. Romney’s political aspirations…In the process, Bain continued to buy and restructure companies, potentially leaving Mr. Romney exposed to further criticism that he has grown wealthier over the last decade partly as a result of layoffs.

My logic here is plain: Romney knows about layoffs and layoffs tend to make people poor, therefore Romney knows something about being poor.

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Speaking of moderate Republicans who are not, John Boehner said on Sunday that he opposes the just-passed bipartisan Senate bill to extend the payroll-tax cut and unemployment benefits for a couple of months. 

You see, those pesky teapartiers in the House don’t want to play nice and Mr. Boehner isn’t going to make them. They are in a hostage-taking mood—again.

After years of telling us how effective tax cuts on the wealthy are in creating jobs, we now know that real Republicans believe cutting taxes on the non-wealthy does not create jobs. They also believe that the unemployment benefits are just too generous, what with all those jobs out there that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy created and are creating still. 

If you are confused by all this, here’s some help: Tax cuts are good except when they may help middle-class Americans recover from Republican economics, and unemployment benefits are good except when they help people who don’t have jobs due to Republican economics.

I hope that helps.

“Both Sides” Are Not To Blame

The worst thing about the failure of the supercommittee to reach an agreement is not their failure to reach an agreement but the failure of the media to emphasize just why the effort failed: Republican intransigence on the tax issue, particularly their refusal to raise taxes even a teensy-weensy bit on America’s wealthy elite.

The kind of misleadingly even-handed reporting associated with this issue will simply lead to more gridlock and dysfunction. (Let’s forget about Fox “News,” which for the most part blames Democrats for the failure.)

Oh, I know you think you have heard the truth about Republicans’ intransigence reported in the mainstream press, but it is almost always accompanied by something like this: Democrats have refused to budge on entitlements. That sort of negates the first point, doesn’t it? It’s the media’s reflexive “both sides are guilty” reporting. It’s the failure of generic “Washington” or the failure of a bipartisan “Congress” to come to an agreement, not the failure of the GOP to break its pledge to Grover Norquist.

I heard on Morning Joe this morning a man disguised as a Democrat—former congressman Harold Ford, Jr.—say this, as the opening shot on the segment discussing the failure:

This is two times since August, since summer, that Congress was presented with a chance to do its job and it failed—both parties.

“Both parties.” That’s the media mantra.

Here, read this paragraph from a CNN story on the failure:

Democrats have blasted Republicans for not being more receptive to higher taxes on the wealthy, while Republicans insist Democrats are unwilling to make necessary spending cuts to popular domestic programs.

That’s pretty much the way the thing has been reported, even though President Obama and the Democrats did offer significant entitlement cuts in the ambitious “grand bargain” the President was negotiating with Speaker John Boehner this summer.  Republicans just wouldn’t budge on tax increases for the super-rich. But the mess gets reported as a they-said, they-said story. 

Television news, especially cable news, is particularly eager to report on the propaganda wars between spinners in the two parties. It’s the easiest and cheapest kind of journalism to do: get a couple reps from each party and let them do their thing on camera.

What makes this kind of journalism so worrisome is that reporting on the propaganda wars between the two sides rather than putting out the facts that led to the failure will lead to even more of the same kind of failure after next election. People who don’t pay all that much attention need to be informed, or they will continue to vote blindly.

On Saturday, as the supercommittee failure was eminent, Dana Milbank was on MSNBC saying things like this:

The public is gonna blame everybody.

To the extent that’s true, it’s because Beltway commentators like Dana Milbank don’t make it absolutely clear every time they move their lips in front of a television camera that it is not “everybody’s” fault.  Milbank said on Saturday something I have heard much too often on cable news:

Hopefully, somebody at some point will grow up around here.

Except that it’s been clear to those of us paying close attention just who the grownups have been in this process. But instead of placing the blame where it belongs, we are treated to things like this:

Here’s a message to Washington politicians: duck.

Your failure is now complete. You were faced with a generational challenge to save Americans from the type of collapse European countries are now facing and you blinked. Actually, you did worse…

Watching them all trot their tired lines out on the Sunday talk shows made me sick. Democrats were blabbing on about hiking taxes and Republicans were prattling on about slashing spending. Both were accusing the other side of intransigence while standing in a block of ideological cement.

That was an excerpt from an op-ed piece in Politico written by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and read on Morning Joe this morning. And that sentiment pretty much represents the disgust many people feel.  But think about it for a minute: even if Democrats were “standing in a block of ideological cement” in protecting the working class and the poor from severe budget austerity, is that on a moral par with Republicans’ ideological devotion to keeping taxes low on the wealthiest Americans, who have been thriving for the past thirty years? Huh?

Do Democrats, even in the worst case scenario, deserve to be painted with the same moral brush as no-tax-increase ideologues in the Republican Party?

Yet Scarborough, a conservative Republican working inside that fortress of liberalism, MSNBC, wrote:

Our leaders are unworthy of our trust. They have no moral authority to lead. The President is weak and not up to the task of running the White House. Congress is even worse, with an approval rating mired in single digits. If the cavalry is coming, it better ride in from the west quick. We’re in a hell of a mess and thanks to Washington’s bumbling, I fear it is all going to get much worse.

Neither side, in Scarborough’s estimation, has the moral authority to lead. You see? That’s how it works these days in the “news” business. Both sides are to blame, both sides are equally guilty, both sides deserve our condemnation.

Scarborough is right about one thing. With that kind of sentiment permeating the airwaves, things will get much worse because too many ignorant people will keep voting for conservative Republicans.

“Chaos”

Last week, I gave kudos to Sen. Roy Blunt for supporting disaster relief without strings attached.  In case you forgot, Blunt actually was one of 10 Republicans who voted with Democrats to approve a $7 billion funding bill for FEMA, which has been critical for our recovery here in Joplin and elsewhere.

My Blunt kudos may have been a case of premature ejaculation (don’t panic: “a short sudden emotional utterance“).

Discussing the possibility of the Senate voting on an amended version of the House temporary budget resolution—which failed to pass, but more on that later—Fox “News” reported:

The House is scheduled to pass it’s [sic] bill Wednesday and head out of town Thursday. Reid has said he intends to try to amend that bill to plus up disaster aid to $6.9 billion. Whether or not he will have the votes, again, remains to be seen. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who’s state was ravaged by a tornado in May, would not commit Tuesday to supporting Reid’s move, as he did previously.

So, my premature kudos for Blunt I officially, uh, withdraw.

Now to the House: With the end of the fiscal year fast approaching, House teapartiers, in an unholy alliance with Democrats, put a political chiv in the back of Speaker Boehner by not voting for the Continuing Resolution to fund the government through November 18. 

Boehner, who has never really been in operational control of the House, was understandably upset over the kids in the House Tea Party letting him down, even after he threatened them. But he promised there would not be another fiasco over the budget, like the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that.

In any case, here’s how Roll Call reported Boehner’s shallacking:

The House threw the appropriations process into chaos today, voting down a stopgap funding resolution that conservative Republicans and virtually all Democrats opposed.

Chaos.”  And what is at the heart of that chaos?  Disaster funding.  FEMA.  Offsets.  

Republicans have played games with disaster funding and Democrats refuse to join them. Democrats in the House oppose the inadequate funding of FEMA in the CR and refuse to support the budget offsets that involve cutting off funds for a valuable loan program for advanced technology vehicles that has been a real job creator.

For his part, Boehner only needed 18 more Republicans to pass his CR, but 48 Republicans, mostly extremists, voted against the resolution because it followed the discretionary spending levels of the infamous debt-ceiling deal instead of a slightly lower amount previously passed in a separate House budget resolution.

By requiring FEMA funding to be subject to a debate about offsets, as Tea Party Republicans and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have done, we are in chaos.  This is exactly why from the beginning of the disaster recovery in Joplin I tried to ask my congressman, Ozark Billy Long, what his position on offsets and disaster funding was. 

And of those few who have tried, nobody has been able to get him to answer definitively. He voted for Boehner’s CR, with its stingy funding for FEMA and its offsets for disaster relief, and unfortunately that doesn’t tell us whether he will vote for a resolution that does not contain offsets.

I guess we’re just supposed to wait and find out, because I still have not had a response from Long’s office to my question.

And, too, I suppose we’re going to have to wait and see how Roy Blunt will vote on disaster relief.

In the mean time, no more premature short and sudden emotional utterances from me.

Massa Limbaugh: “Put This Guy In His Place”

I wrote this paragraph yesterday about the Obama-Boehner Speechgate issue:

The unprecedented flap over the date Mr. Obama will give his now too-hyped jobs speech before a joint session of Congress is merely the latest in a long string of indignities heaped upon him.  Since January of 2009, these pale-faced Republicans have been shouting to this uppity Negro: “You may have won the White House, boy, but you ain’t gonna run things around heah.”

It turns out that not only was I right, but I was right for the right reason.

Thanks to Roger Simon of Politico we pretty much know what happened regarding the otherwise trivial matter of scheduling a speech before Congress. Simon reported in a piece titled, “W.H. furious over speech delay“:

At about 10 or 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, White House chief of staff Bill Daley called House Speaker John Boehner and asked that a joint session of Congress be assembled the following Wednesday night. The White House viewed Boehner as a political opponent, but not an enemy and the call was cordial, even pro forma considering such a request had never before been refused.

And, according to the White House source, Boehner said “okay” to Daley’s request for the Wednesday evening date.

The White House then released the news at 11:55 a.m. that the joint session speech would happen on Wednesday, and everything was cool.

Except for one thing.

Rush Limbaugh’s show began twelve minutes later.  And we all know that Massa El Rushbo runs the Republican Party and if Rush ain’t happy nobody’s happy.

Here’s what Rush said just after the news came out about the speech schedule:

RUSH: I’m telling you, folks: Do not be defensive about this. Obama’s not this smart. This is amateur politics. It’s not gonna work. So expose it and block it. Boehner would not have to say “no” to Bush or Clinton because neither of them would ever try this! I don’t care whatever, if they say Boehner’s racist. I don’t care whatever they say, you do not let this happen. This is intended to not only disrupt the Reagan library debate but to make Obama look bigger than Republicans and bigger plan politics, and they can’t. The Republicans if they have any hope of winning the 2012 election, have got to put this guy in his place using this as their opportunity to do it. No doubt about it.

Y’all betta put that uppity Negro in his place, by God!

So, Boehner, using the phony excuse that Congress wouldn’t be back in session until 6:30 p.m.—as Roger Simon points out Congress was technically never out of session, a move designed to keep Obama from making recess appointments—essentially did what Massa Rush said to do and he put the uppity Negro in his place.

On Thursday, Limbaugh, a very pleased and very big boss man, said:

So I don’t care how you people at MSNBC or AP or anywhere else want to try to characterize this.

Obama just got smacked down…

He can’t win this. He literally can’t win it. This was a bully. You know, we got all this anti-bullying legislation being proposed? It needs to be aimed at Obama because Obama is the bully, who attempted to force his way to the front of the line at the US House of Representatives chamber and he got smacked down. His advisors blew it, and they blew it big.

There you have it, all you doubters about the motives of these guys.  Straight from the mouth of the de facto chairman of the Republican Party.  John Boehner put Obama “in his place.” The President of the United States got “smacked down,” as he “attempted to force his way to the front of the line.”

Get in the back of the bus you uppity Negro! Don’t you know your place?

Finally, perhaps, just perhaps, there’s a sign that the Obama team is waking up. Simon reported:

And who does the White House believe was really behind treating the president so shabbily?

“At first, I didn’t think it was Boehner, but his caucus,” the source said. “But maybe not. Maybe it is him.”

Yeah, maybe it is him, empowered and emboldened by that pale-faced, conservative plantation massa on the radio.

They’re Just Sayin’

Here is a sample of recent right-wing quotes in the news:

As the stock market falls, starting just before and continuing after the Republican-created debt-ceiling crisis ended, we all should remember this:

John Boehner, from CBS News:

When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.

Since the market has dropped 10.7 % in ten days, Mr. Boehner is claiming 98% of the drop as his very own.  How nice of him.

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If anyone thought the Republican plan to kill Medicare was dead, think again:

Eric Cantor, from The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) on Wednesday suggested that Republicans will continue a push to overhaul programs such as Medicare, saying in an interview that “promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many” and that younger Americans will have to adjust.

“What we have to be, I think, focused on is truth in budgeting here,” Cantor told The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal. He said “the better way” for Americans is to “get the fiscal house in order” and “come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many.”

As many have pointed out, Mr. Cantor has absolutely no trouble keeping his promises to Grover Norquist and the moneyed class, no matter the cost to the country.

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If anyone thought the Republican strategy to stick a gun to the temple of the economy and threaten to pull the trigger was a one-time deal, think again:

Mitch McConnell, from Think Progress:

It set the template for the future. In the future…no president — in the near future, maybe in the distant future — is going to be able to get the debt ceiling increased without a re-ignition of the same discussion of how do we cut spending and get America headed in the right direction. I expect the next president, whoever that is, is going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again in 2013, so we’ll be doing it all over.

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If anyone thought the head of the public relations department of the Republican Party has lost his racist charm, think again:

Rush Limbaugh, from his radio show, discussing the stock market drop:

People are losing their life savings.  This is not new.  This has been going on ever since Obama was immaculated… He’s not even halfway done killing the economy.  I don’t want to think about what this country will look like when he’s all the way there.  This guy obviously has a new role model, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe.  The next thing to look out for is for Obama to take the farms.  Well, that’s what Mugabe did.  He took the white people’s farms, the only place that had any money.

For the record, Robert Mugabe was ranked Number 1 on Parade’s The World’s 10 Worst Dictators.

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Rush Limbaugh bonus quote:

CALLER: Thank you, Rush. As a Tea Party conservative, I’ve noticed how the names we’ve been called are getting worse and worse, and I think it’s time we turn the table, and the “tax-and-spend liberal” no longer really meets the requirement because they’re taxing me. They’re gonna tax my daughters, they’re gonna tax my yet unborn grandchildren. They’re going after their birthday money, they’re going after their piggy banks, they’re going after them. They’re financial pedophiles.

RUSH: They are!

CALLER: That’s what we’re talking about: Financial pedophiles.

RUSH: “Financial pedophiles,” addicts, criminals, sticking us up. I like it. Exactly right. These people are sick. They are sick.

The Bland Bargain

As this debt-ceiling fiasco reaches its apex, it has become clear that The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden has, hopefully only temporarily, disappeared from the scene. 

In his place is a man who, well, bragged on Sunday night that one result of the bipartisan debt-ceiling agreement would be,

the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was President.

It was once inconceivable for some of us to imagine that Obama, or any Democratic president, would utter such a statement, especially in its present context:  Tea Party arsonists, matches in hand, are about to set our economic house on fire and have even threatened to slash the tires on the fire trucks, unless the zealots get what they demand.

And it appears they will get much of what they want, if enough of them put down the matches and the gasoline and decide to take the deal.  The main thing, for them and all Republicans, is that there will be no definite revenue increases, which would have served to make swallowing the definite domestic cuts a little easier for Democrats.

The post-bin Laden Obama mischaracterized, no doubt for pre-consummation consumption, the nature of the situation when he said in his Sunday statement,

… it will allow us to avoid default and end the crisis that Washington imposed on the rest of America. 

Washington” imposed the crisis?  Are Republcans and Democrats—Washington—both to blame? Did Democrats threaten to start a fire that would see our economic house possibly burn to the ground?  No, of course not, and Mr. Obama knows that. He’s pointed out the true culprits many times before, the arsonists on the hard, hard Right, aided and abetted by the wobbly-kneed John Boehner and the coldly-calculating political opportunist Mitch McConnell. 

Mr. Obama obviously believes he cannot name names right now, before the thing is done, but it would have been better to say nothing at all about who imposed the crisis, if he didn’t feel free to put the blame where it belongs.  There is enough public moral confusion about this issue without the President adding to it.

He also said this:

It ensures also that we will not face this same kind of crisis again in six months, or eight months, or 12 months.  And it will begin to lift the cloud of debt and the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over our economy.  

Well, it may not be exactly the “same kind of crisis,” but Americans will be hard-pressed to see the difference between this fiasco and the upcoming fight over the federal budget, with what will inevitably be threats of yet another government shutdown coming from Tea Party Republicans—uh, I meant, Washington. 

And that means the cloud of uncertainty will still hang over our economy and our people.

Look, I understand why Mr. Obama made this deal at this stage in the game. He feels a personal responsibility as President for the people whose economic house Republicans are so willing to burn down.  I get that, even as some on the left are calling him bad names and ridiculously claiming they will not vote for him again.

And I know why he resisted the odd constitutional options he had and the crazy talk about creating $1 trillion coins and other fantasies.  If you think this frustrating foozle has been destabilizing, imagine if Obama did what some angry liberals have been urging him to do and simply went over the heads of the Congress in order to raise the debt limit. 

In an instant, Republicans would plunge the country into a protracted constitutional crisis and the Tea Party placard-painting business—”IMPEECH THE KENYUN DIKTATER!—would be the hot buy until next November.

The problem is that Mr. Obama made a crucial decision earlier this year to move off his sensible position that using the rather habitual process of raising the debt ceiling was not the proper vehicle to achieve deficit reduction.  He wanted, and should have continued to demand, a clean debt-ceiling bill.

Perhaps he thought his past vote in the Senate not to raise it would cripple his attempt to take a principled stand on a clean bill. Or, perhaps he genuinely saw what Republicans were doing as a way of forcing them to accept some revenue increases, which was a serious misread of the zealotry that poisons the Republican Party these days.

Who knows. We’ll have to wait for the post-Administration book.

For whatever reason, Mr. Obama decided to play the politics on Republican turf and they took full advantage of the home field.  They perceived his strange strategy as a weakness and it empowered them.  His decision to play their debt-ceiling game made them stronger.

As the more ideologically-crazed Republicans appeared absolutely willing to push the country into default, Mr. Obama retreated on the one thing—tax increases—that most of us had every reason to believe was essential to any deal he would eventually make.

And now if a goodly number of Republicans support the deal, perhaps half of each caucus, then the pressure is on Democrats to take the deal, too, or risk having the disaster blamed on them.

There was a time, before the decision to meet Republicans half past halfway, when many of us were urging the President to go ahead and have his Armageddon with Republicans now rather than later: No coupling of the debt ceiling with deficit reduction. Absent that, the alternative was to stand firm on the basic principle of fairness, which requires a balanced approach—budget cuts and up-front revenue increases—to address the debt problem.

Many of us believe he could have won that fight, at least in the eyes of the American people. And if Republicans would have gone ahead with their burn-it-down scheme, then they would have sealed their political fate for a generation, and perhaps The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden would have been able to send bin Laden-like Tea Party Republicans to their proper home in the depths of a political Arabian Sea.

As it stands now, they live to plot more threats.

The Boehner Two-Step Is In Trouble—With Republicans

Jim Jordan is the chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, a driving force behind the nuttery going on regarding the debt ceiling.  Our local representatives are members, naturally.

Of John Boehner’s latest two-step debt-ceiling proposal, Jordan said that he was “confident as of this morning that there were not 218 Republicans in support of this plan.” Why?

Because it doesn’t cut enough and it creates a pesky 12-member bipartisan committee that would be responsible for cutting the deficit as much as $1.8 trillion more than the initial $1.2 trillion Boehner proposes. The committee’s finding would go immediately to both floors for an up or down vote, without amendment.

And that’s the problem.

Jordan said that if six Democrats and one Republican on the committee decide to raise taxes as part of the mix to reduce the deficit, “you can’t keep that off the floor.”

And keeping any bill that would increase revenue off the floor—where it might actually pass—is more important than anything to House Tea Party Republicans, who, apparently, find perverse moral satisfaction in shielding the wealthy from tax fairness.

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