Exploring The Left’s Own Obsession

I said on Monday that there is “something seriously wrong” with Senator Lindsey Graham, as well as others on the right who are suffering from an Obama-induced detachment from reality. Graham had blamed the invasion of Ukraine on the President, saying, We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression.”

Whatever is wrong with Senator Graham (and, please, let’s stop blaming it on his primary election and the need to please radicals in his party; that makes what he’s doing worse, not better), the disorder has deepened. Yesterday he tweeted:

graham tweet

In comes the bizarre conservative obsession with Benghazi, which means that rational thought is on vacation. Even in times that call for some semblance of national unity, in the face of thuggish behavior by a thuggish despot, we get Benghazi. How sad that is.

But I don’t want to just pick on conservatives, when it comes to foreign policy obsessions. On the far left we have an equally strange and disunifying foreign policy obsession: Barack Obama and George W. Bush are the same people, just different colors.

A long-time follower of this blog, and a man of the left, Gerry Malan, commented on my piece on the right-wing’s hysterical reaction to what happened in Ukraine. He said,

We have proof of two US State Department high officials confirming their plan to install a new client regime in the Ukraine.

When I asked him to provide such proof, he responded with this:

Not sure how you missed the Nuland recording where she and our Ukraine ambassador discussed cutting out the EU and putting in our own selected thugs. Here it is from Foreign Policy on Focus:http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/02/21-8

Today on Common Dreams Ray McGovern explains more of the Obama/State Department grab for the Crimea:http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/03/02-2

I highly recommend reading more from RT and less from Morning Joe.

So, I spent some time following those links and reading the content. And I’m still waiting for “proof” that the Obama administration tried to install “our own selected thugs,” or that there is any such thing as “the Obama/State Department grab for the Crimea.”

On the day it was released, I listened to the famous secretly-recorded phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt (hear it here or read a transcript here). That call featured Nuland saying “Fuck the EU.” Besides that one bit of profanity, what I heard during that call is not what some liberals, way too many I’m sad to say, heard in it.

As Gerry Malan’s comment makes clear, and as the writers he references also make clear, what some folks heard was a secret and grand attempt at American imperialism, executed by “neoconservatives” in the Obama administration. But what I heard was not some worrisome conspiracy to bring down a democratically-elected president, but two people discussing events in Ukraine that were not started by the United States, nor part of a plot to set up a “client regime” in that country, but events that lent themselves to some democracy- and better government-favoring manipulation by the United States. And I’d be disappointed if we were not doing that kind of “meddling” in such events, since I have a fondness for democracy and good government and believe we should help those Ukrainians who also have a fondness for those things. Especially when it doesn’t involve American troops and trillions of dollars.

As for that Russian-leaked phone call, let’s remember what Jonathan Marcus pointed out was the reason for it:

The clear purpose in leaking this conversation is to embarrass Washington and for audiences susceptible to Moscow’s message to portray the US as interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs.

“For audiences susceptible to Moscow’s message.” I don’t want to be in that audience. I tend to side with my own guys when a Russian thug is hard at work trying to embarrass them. I’m sorry that some liberals don’t have that same disposition. Unlike too many lefties, I will need a whole lot more than what I heard in that phone call to get me to buy what the Russians, and to some extent folks in the far-left press, are selling.

And one guy on the far left trying to sell this conspiracy is Patrick Smith, who wrote one of the articles that Gerry Malan linked to and presumably helped him conclude that, “We have proof of two US State Department high officials confirming their plan to install a new client regime in the Ukraine.” Smith is a long-time journalist and foreign correspondent, but to give you an idea of the kind of pieces he writes these days, he recently wrote an article for Salon.com titled, The world is right to hate us: Arrogance, ignorance and obscene foreign policy,” and subtitled, “This White House was supposed to be different. But our arrogant foreign policy has been the same since the 1950s.” That sort of gives you an idea where Smith stands.

Now, on to what he writes about that intercepted phone call and the recent events in Ukraine:

…we get to hear two American diplomats talking about Washington’s plan, already in motion, to install a client regime in the Ukraine.

Ah. There is that “install a client regime in Ukraine” stuff. But think about it. Even if there were proof of such a plot, it is hard to see just what we would do with such a client regime, especially when the opposition who would lead such a regime are, in the words of Patrick Smith, full of “oligarchs of the new Russian model.” Just why would we want to get mixed up with those guys in such an intimate way?

But even Patrick Smith isn’t quite bold enough to make the claim that there is “proof” that such a vast neocon-led conspiracy was and is going on:

With Kiev again erupting in violent confrontation, an understanding of the possible role of covert activities is essential to a complete picture.

“Possible role of cover activities”? Possible? Proof is more than speculation. Proof is more than saying it is wise to have “an understanding of the possible role of covert activities” in the confrontation going on in Ukraine and in what Gerry Malan and other liberals are calling a “plan to install a new client regime in the Ukraine.” If there is proof, present it. That intercepted phone call is not proof. But there is evidence all over the place that what led to the fall of the government in Ukraine was homegrown frustration with corruption and malfeasance. Whether the protesters went too far and committed their share of violence, and whether there are neo-fascists and other miscreants among their ranks, is another question. We are debating here whether the United States government deliberately toppled a democratically-elected president.

I admit I am suspicious of anyone, like Patrick Smith, who tries to make the case for a conspiracy to install that new client regime but who also says that “demonizing Yanukovich is a distraction.” What? Viktor Yanukovich, the former Ukrainian president, caused turmoil in the country, ordered the killing of civilians, and looted the treasury. I don’t find demonizing him a distraction and I’m suspicious of the motives of any writer who could so cavalierly dismiss his role in the mess.

I also find suspicious the writer’s motives when he says things like this:

There is a tendency among the East European nations to idealize the West, as if westernizing is the solution to all problems. I see this among the Kiev demonstrators. It is a mistake. Disillusion is never far when people follow this line of thought to its end.

That sounds like good old-fashioned lefty-loathing of Western civilization, a disease that some liberals just can’t shake. And for some of them the disease gets worse when a Democrat is in the White House. I wish I had the cure for such an illness, but I don’t. Western civilization, for all its faults, is better than the alternative. Therefore I tend to give it the benefit of the doubt. I wish all Westerners did.

As for the actual speculation on this client regime stuff, Mr. Smith writes:

More interesting by far are the machinations Nuland and Pyatt describe. The American plot revolves around manipulating various figures in the opposition, backing the fortunes of some, keeping others from the table, and thereby inducing a friendly, post–Yanukovich government of one kind or another, compromised from its very conception.

And what exactly is wrong with such manipulation, so long as it is not accomplished at the point of a gun? I’d like for any liberal to explain to me why it isn’t a proper component of our foreign policy, as part of a larger Western strategy, to attempt to curb the appetite of a Russian despot? Mr. Smith also says:

The West unites around the thought of undermining Putin’s neo-imperial ambitions and pushing institutions such as NATO up to his doorstep.

So? Isn’t that what we should be doing? Isn’t “undermining” people like Putin a worthy objective? Or have liberals become so critical of Western civilization that they can no longer distinguish between the good and the bad? At one point Ambassador Pyatt says during the phone call with Assistant Secretary of State Nuland:

I’m just thinking in terms of sort of the process moving ahead we want to keep the moderate democrats together.

Is that some awful conspiracy? Keeping those “moderate democrats together.” What next? Will we have the gall to advocate for a chicken in every Ukrainian pot? Seriously, this left-wing criticism is surreal. Since when are liberals opposed to democracy and good government and thwarting the ambitions of thugs? So what that we publicly said we were peace-loving brokers regarding the uprising, while behind the scenes we are trying to make good things happen more than we dared to publicly admit. God, I hope we do that stuff all the time. We have national interests, even if sometimes they President-elect Putin watches the tactical exercises of Russia's Northern Fleet in the Barentsevo Sea on April 6, 2000. He has been at the helm during a decade of Russian economic growth fueled by natural resources of gas and oil.are only what should be non-controversial interests (at least for Americans) in seeing to it, the best we can, that good democratic governance has a chance to flourish where it is wanted. To me, that is better—and much different—than invading Iraq and forcing it on people, like the real George W. Bush did.

What I find appalling about all this is the idea that what the United States was trying to do, shape events as best they could in favor of better democratic angels in Ukraine, is worse than what the Russians were and are doing, including endorsing the use of deadly force against Ukrainian civilians and still implicitly threatening such force. If this is what hard-core liberalism has become, count me out. I think I can still tell the good guys from the bad ones, even if, in this case, one of the “good guys” is Victoria Nuland, a career foreign service officer who, after she worked for Bill Clinton, then worked for neocons like Bush and Cheney, before working for Barack Obama. In any case, even if we were talking about bad guys, we aren’t exactly talking about torture or starting a war on false pretenses here, even though one of the commenters on Smith’s piece wrote,

Obomba is a thug who heads a thug state (see Engelhardt’s article of yesterday here at CD), and it seems that by now this ought to be clear to anyone who has been paying attention to his appointments, his bellicose foreign policy, and assassination program. No different in fact from Bush the Lesser and an entire lineage of U.S. presidents who threw their weight around all over the planet, plundering, occupying, killing, etc. That is (why) Nuland was appointed as she was. She is the perfect agent of a rogue state.

What a load of America-loathing bullshit. But this thinking, engendered by the kind of writing Patrick Smith does these days, represents what some folks on the far left think. They fail to differentiate between bad, better, and best. It sounds so much like what I hear a lot of Obama-hating conservatives say. As I said, count me out as wanting to join that kind of liberalism, which I find every bit as darkly conspiratorial as anything Glenn Beck could fantasize into existence. And thank God or Allah that Obama isn’t that kind of liberal either, just like he isn’t the same kind of neoconservative thinker that led us to a foolish war during the Bush administration.

For the record, as many mistakes as America has made in its foreign policy, and believe me there have been a lot, trying to seek out and help “moderate democrats” in Ukraine doesn’t rise to the level of the “assassination program,” for God’s sake. Those of us on the left, who value the principles of good-government democracy, shouldn’t let an obsession with misguided neo-conservative “regime change” philosophy get in the way of appreciating the fact that we, as a nation of freedom-loving democrats, should still be friends of liberty everywhere, even if we screw things up now and then.

The deal about all this “fuck the EU” business is that the U.S. diplomats were expressing frustration at the slow-walking EU folks, who want to avoid a confrontation with Russia and a mean-spirited despot like Putin, who controls much of their energy needs. In that context, we all should be applauding what these two U.S. diplomats were trying to do, not accuse them of evil. It’s not exactly like they were trying to establish the Ukrainian version of the bleeping Third Reich.

As for Gerry Malan’s other link to an article by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern—who was a daily briefer for George H. W. Bush but who now thinks Julian Assange is a “hero”—I will only quote one passage:

In early February, as violent protests raged in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and the White House professed neutrality, U.S. State Department officials were, in the words of NYU professor emeritus of Russian studies Stephen Cohen, “plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of Ukraine.”

Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative “regime changers” of Official Washington and their sophomoric “responsibility-to-protect” (R2P) allies in the Obama administration? Have they dangerously over-reached by pushing the putsch that removed duly-elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych?

What? There is no evidence, not to mention proof, that the United States pushed “the putsch” that ended Yanukovych’s presidency. Protests in Ukraine initially began in November of last year, after Yanukovych backed away from signing a free trade agreement with the European Union, mostly under pressure from Putin. There were also issues with the Ukrainian constitution. But, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune pointed out, wanting closer ties with Western Europe wasn’t enough to get “[m]iddle-class professionals, blue-collar workers, students and retirees” out to “form ranks of street fighters armed with Molotov cocktails.” The biggest reason for the unrest was a familiar one:

The demonstrations reflected the appalling state of governance in Ukraine. The Yanukovych government was a kleptocracy. Policy goals were subordinate to the enrichment of the president and a privileged elite, known colloquially as “the family.” In international rankings of corruption, Ukraine was recognized as one of the most corrupt regimes on Earth.

There you have it. The tumult in Ukraine was not a coup d’état (as Russian expert and Putin apologist Stephen Cohen claimed) plotted by Barack Obama and the U.S. government. And if someone, anyone, claims it was then they have to offer up more evidence than a Russian-provided telephone call between two American diplomats.

“Another World” Of Obama-Hating Hysteria (UPDATED)

Vladimir Putin is nuts, as far as German honcho Angela Merkel is concerned. At least that is what The New York Times reported regarding her telly talk with President Obama:

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama by telephone on Sunday that after speaking with Mr. Putin she was not sure he was in touch with reality, people briefed on the call said. “In another world,” she said.

Well, speaking of another world and being out of touch with reality, we have the strange universe of Republican politics and punditry. Let’s start with a representative sample from Senator Lindsey Graham. CNN’s Candy Crowley interviewed him on Sunday about the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

CROWLEY: …the president has come out and spoken very forcefully on Friday about consequences. The U.S. has made it clear that it disapproves of what Russia has done. You’ve been tweeting about strong statements. What more do you want from President Obama at this point?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, number one, stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators. It is not your strong suit. Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine. We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression.

“Invites aggression.” Now, speaking of nuts, speaking of a disassociation from reality, that statement is textbook. For a powerful U.S. Senator, right in the middle of a serious international crisis, to essentially blame that crisis on the President of the United States, while making fun of the Commander-in-Chief and calling him “weak and indecisive,” is indicative of something seriously wrong not only with Lindsey Graham, but indicative of a schizophrenia on the right that is so deep, and so potentially dangerous, that we all should be concerned as much with the present mental state of some conservatives as we are with the mental state of Vladimir Putin.Main Entry Image

Let’s move on to right-wing Fox pundit-god Charles Krauthammer. Four days ago, after President Obama said, “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine,” the Fox know-it-all said:

The Ukrainians, and I think everybody, is shocked by the weakness of Obama’s statement. I find it rather staggering.

Staggering? He found it staggering? What Krauthammer didn’t find staggering, as Dorian De Wind points out, is a statement given by George W. Bush in August of 2008, five days after Vladimir Putin’s Russia invaded Georgia with civilian-killing bombers and jet fighters. Bush said pretty much the same things that Obama is saying now, including things like this:

Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century…These actions have substantially damaged Russia’s standing in the world. And these actions jeopardize Russians’ relations — Russia’s relations with the United States and Europe. It is time for Russia to be true to its word and to act to end this crisis.

I remind you that was five days after the invasion and reported estimated deaths of 2,000 people. Was that George Bush’s fault? Did Senator Graham go on a Sunday talk show and call Bush a weak and indecisive president? Did he say Bush invited the aggression? Was their a peep of criticism from easily staggered people like Charles Krauthammer, whose disdain for President Obama has become a personality disorder? No and no and no and no.

Here is the end of a column that Krauthammer wrote on August 14, 2008:

President Bush could cash in on his close personal relationship with Putin by sending him a copy of the highly entertaining (and highly fictionalized) film “Charlie Wilson’s War” to remind Vlad of 12623580-12623583-slargeour capacity to make Russia bleed. Putin would need no reminders of the Georgians’ capacity and long history of doing likewise to invaders.

Bush needs to make up for his mini-Katrina moment when he lingered in Beijing yukking it up with our beach volleyball team while Putin flew to North Ossetia to direct the invasion of a neighboring country. Bush is dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to France and Georgia. Not a moment too soon. Her task must be to present these sanctions, get European agreement on as many as possible and begin imposing them, calibrated to Russian behavior. And most important of all, to prevent any Euro-wobbliness on the survival of Georgia’s democratically elected government.

We have cards. We should play them. Much is at stake.

Can you believe that? Krauthammer cites “Bush’s close personal relationship with Putin” without so much as any criticism of Bush for misreading the Russian leader. No language about weakness or weak responses. Nothing like that. Remember Bush had said about Putin that, “I looked into his eyes and saw his soul.”* Can you even imagine what Krauthammer would have written if Barack Obama had made that same statement prior to Putin invading Ukraine? Just last September Krauthammer said Obama “has been played and continues to be” by Putin. Such hypocrisy is off the charts.

Let me also remind you that George Bush said the following about the Russian invasion of Georgia:

We insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected.

“We insist,” the Commander-in-Chief  said in 2008. Well, thousands of Russian troops still occupy about a fifth of Georgia to this day. Russia has declared the disputed territories, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, to be “independent states.” So much for George W. Bush’s “close personal relationship” with the thug.

And so much for expecting any semblance of sane commentary from people like Lindsey Graham and Charles Krauthammer. As Angela Merkel might say, they, like so many Obama-hating conservatives, are truly in another world.                                              [AP photo]

[UPDATE:Appearing on Fox's "Your (another) World with Neil Cavuto," former New York City mayor and current Chris Christie apologist, Rudy Giuliani, said that,

Putin decides what he wants to do and he does it in half a day. Right? He decided he had to go to their parliament, he got permission in 15 minutes...he makes a decision and he executes it, quickly. Then everybody reacts. That's what you call a leader. President Obama, he's gotta think about it, he's gotta go over it again; he's gotta talk to more people...

rudy and putinNow, even forgetting that the Russian parliament is not the U.S. Congress, in the sense that it is not a democratic body with a mind and real power of its own, the fact that a Russian thug is praised by a prominent Republican for acting like a thug, even a decisive one, is enough to turn one's stomach. And if the American people had any sense at all, they would tell not only Rudy Giuliani, but the entire Republican Party that harbors such stupidity, such undeniable nuttiness, to go straight to hell and never come back.]

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* Speaking of souls: It wasn’t that long ago when some culture-war right-wingers were singing the praises of the Russian thug, who was going to save Christianity from the homosexual heathens. From Pat Buchanan to the American Family Association to The American Conservative to the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute to the World Congress of Families to Sean Hannity—who actually said in September that he would take the word of Putin over Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Trinity Of Turmoil And The End Of The Republican Party

tur·moila state of great commotion, confusion, or disturbance

by now everyone who cares has heard several prominent Republicans absorb their fiscal cliff “defeat” by telling themselves, and the public, that the real fight is yet to come:

♦ over the debt ceiling ($16.394 trillion), which we technically exceeded earlier this week;

♦ over the sequester, those automatic cuts in spending that “would have a devastating impact on important defense and nondefense programs,” according to the White House and others who know what’s at stake;

♦ and over what is known as a continuing budget resolution, which is a short-term, ad hoc way of funding the things government does (the current one is good until March 27).

Let’s call these things the Trinity of Turmoil.

Now, let me give you just one example of Republican rhetoric related to this unholiest of trinities. This one is from Sen. Lindsey Graham, talking a few weeks ago on a Sunday show on Fox and responding to President Obama’s statement that he will not play the debt-ceiling game:

GRAHAM: In February or March you have to raise the debt ceiling. And I can tell you this, there is a hardening on the Republican side. We’re not going to raise the debt ceiling. We’re not going to let Obama borrow any more money or any American Congress borrow any more money until we fix this country from becoming Greece. That requires significant entitlement reform to save Social Security from bankruptcy and Medicare from bankruptcy. Social Security is going bankrupt in about 20, 25 years. Medicare is going bankrupt in 15 or 20 years. [...]

Yes, we will play that game, Mr. President, because it’s not a game. The game you’re playing is small ball. You’re talking about raising rates on the top 2% that would run the government for 11 days. You just got reelected. How about doing something big that is not liberal? How about doing something big that really is bipartisan? Every big idea he has is a liberal idea that drowns us in debt. How about manning up here, Mr. President and use your mandate to bring this country together to stop us from becoming Greece.

Forget that nonsense about “we will play the game…because it’s not a game.” (What the hell does that mean anyway?) But that Greece motif has become quite popular among Republicans. I hear them use it all the time. It sounds really scary. And it’s supposed to sound that way, since what Republicans are proposing to do to the country is much, much scarier and they want to camouflage as much of it as possible.

Let’s think really hard about what it is that Lindsey Graham said:

We’re not going to raise the debt ceiling.

He said that. He said that Republicans are not going to pay the nation’s bills, most of them being bills that Republicans have racked up over the years. He actually said that.

I watched Senator Pat Toomey on Morning Joe yesterday morning say this:

Our opportunity here is on the debt ceiling. The president’s made it very clear, he doesn’t even want to have a discussion about it because he knows this is where we have leverage.

Leverage? Ultimately the leverage he is talking about is the well-being of the economy, ours and perhaps the world. That’s his leverage. He is really saying that he will threaten at least the well-being of the nation, of you and me.

Toomey goes on:

We Republicans need to be willing to tolerate a temporary, partial government shutdown, which is what that could mean. And get off the road to Greece because that’s a road that we’re on right now. We can only solve this problem by getting spending under control and restructuring the entitlement programs. This president doesn’t want to go there. We’re going to have to force it, and we’re going to have to force it over the debt ceiling.

Ah, there’s that Greece thing again. As I said, Greece is meant to scare folks, what with all that Grecian rioting and turmoil we see once in awhile on our TVs. But what should really scare people is that Lindsey Graham and Pat Toomey and the other extremist Republicans who are talking this way really mean it. They aren’t kidding.

Toomey made it clear:

We absolutely have to have this fight over the debt limit.

I believe him. I believe that there is a contingent of Republicans in both the House and Senate who believe the thing to do to fix the country is to ruin it first.

I believe they will do it, if nothing else because they have to save face in front of their nutty electoral base, many of whom are pushing them to follow up the tough talk with action. Let me relate to you what one of those very influential wing-nut guys, Erick Erickson, wrote:

Have Republicans Boxed Themselves Into a Government Shutdown? First of all, I hope so…there are a number of Republicans who can expect primary challenges and need to show they have spines and will fight…Pat Toomey is already puffing his chest out in damage control to say the GOP must now be willing to shoot the hostage . . . er . . . shut it down for spending cuts…about the only thing the GOP can do to save face and look like they are serious is to be willing to shut it all down when Barack Obama refuses to negotiate.

See? “Save face.” I told ya. Nice stuff, no? But Erickson does say something important at the end:

The McConnell Tax Hike of 2013 has boxed the GOP in for the debt ceiling fight. If they can’t find a way to get real cuts without shutting the government down, there will be hell to pay if they cave without a shut down.

What’s important about that is this: In a weird way, Republicans agreeing to the deal on taxes to avoid the fiscal cliff has boxed them in for a fight over the debt ceiling. They don’t really have a choice, given what it is they currently stand for.

They claim, as Grover Norquist did yesterday, that they are all through with the revenue side of things. That only cutting remains. I heard Oklahoma Republican congressman Tom Cole say this morning that Democrats have had their dessert, now it’s time for the spinach.

But President Obama and the Democrats claim that the revenue side is still very much in play. That any deficit reduction will include additional revenues. So, unless Democrats are willing to slice the budget and entitlements without getting additional revenues, there is no place for Republicans to go but a shutdown of government and another downgrading of our credit rating and, well, fiscal chaos.

It’s important to understand what the Republican negotiating position is here. They are saying that in order for the country to avoid the Trinity of Turmoil, they have to get everything they want. Everything. And they are not going to give up anything to get it. Nothing. Democrats, they insist (as I heard Sen. Bob Corker insist this morning) must be willing to put on the table specific spending cuts, and spending cuts only. That’s it. That’s all they will listen to.

Thus, we all should prepare for the worst. And Democrats should be prepared, if it comes to it, to let Republicans self-destruct by trying to disrupt our economy and scare the bejesus out of people. As Erick Erickson suggested, this is a hostage situation, to be sure. Republicans are prepared, yet again, to hold the country’s well-being hostage and to shoot it if they have to. That’s what they mean by “leverage.” It can mean nothing else.

But this is a unique hostage situation. The hostage in this case cannot be killed, but only weakened. We will survive whatever it is that hostage-taking Republicans are prepared to do to us.

And through it all, we can be sure of one thing: we know the fate of every hostage taker in the end.

Language Matters, But Not Much To Journalists

George Lakoff is an amazing linguistics guru who I have quoted often. He has something to say about what Republicans in Michigan did to unions:

Michigan has just passed a corporate servitude law. It is designed to take away many of the worker rights that unions have conferred throughout their history: the right to a living wage. The right to equal pay for women. The right to deferred payments in the form of pensions. The right to negotiate workplace standards and working conditions. The right to overtime pay.

The law is intended to destroy unions, or at least make then ineffective.

Something else Lakoff said should have your attention:

The deeper truth about unions is that they don’t just create and maintain rights for workers; they work for and create crucial rights in society as a whole. Unions created weekends, the eight-hour workday and health benefits. And through their politics, they have been at the center of support for civil rights and other social justice issues. In short, unions don’t just work for their members. They work for all of us. Including businesses: Workers are profit creators.

But perhaps the most important truth Lakoff, the linguist, passes on to all of us who call ourselves Democrats is this:

Language matters. Republicans understand this better than Democrats. Republicans have called their corporate servitude law a “right to work” law, as if the law conferred a right instead of taking many away. The first principle of political and social communication in cases of conflict is: avoid the other side’s language. The Democrats keep violating this principle, using the Republicans’ name for this law. In this way they are helping Republicans, because using the Republican language activates Republican framing, not just for this law, but for conservative ideology at the deepest level…

Language works so that the conservative name “right to work” evokes the conservative political ideology in the brains of those who hear it without wincing. The more an idea is activated in the brain the stronger it gets. Thus, the use of the conservative name strengthens the conservative ideology in the brains of the public.

The press is not being neutral in using the Republican name for the law. Journalists too, in just using the name, are supporting both the Republican framing of the law and conservative ideology. The press is not being balanced — which is what journalists typically claim to be. Balance would be to use both the names “corporate servitude law” and “right to work law” and to explain the differences in the progressive and conservative understanding of what the law is and does.

Of course, to do so would change a false view of language that journalists too often internalize, namely, that language is neutral. To see that it isn’t, just try speaking or writing of “Michigan’s corporate servitude law” and listen to conservatives scream bloody murder over a truth that does fit their view of democracy. And listen to them keep screaming because it is important to keep repeating the true name of the law if the public is to understand what the law really does.

No, language is not neutral. Language matters. Journalism matters. Politics matters.  Ask labor unions in Michigan. Heck, ask Susan Rice, who has now withdrawn her name from consideration to be our Secretary of State, all because a handful of Republican senators, among them John McCain and Lindsey Graham, working openly with Fox “News” and other more reputable news outlets, sought to destroy her public service career, and now have.

I recommend you read the entire Lakoff piece.

Word To Democrats: Be Careful On Entitlement Reform

A few Republicans are publicly divorcing themselves from Grover Norquist, which is a good sign. But not enough Republicans are yet ready to absorb fully the meaning of the GOP’s defeat on November 6.

As President Obama has said several times now, if the last election had one clear message, it was that the wealthiest Americans, those who have been doing pretty well despite a sluggish economic recovery, need to “pay a little more” in taxes and thus get things started in terms of fixing our long-term fiscal problems.

On Sunday, John McCain’s lap dog, Sen. Lindsey Graham, clearly abandoned Grover Norquist and his infernal tax pledge. I have heard replayed numerous times the following excerpt from Graham’s appearance on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos:

I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.

In context, though, Graham was not endorsing an increase in marginal tax rates (“I agree with Grover, we shouldn’t raise rates,” he said), but only an increase in revenues by other means, like capping deductions for wealthy families (“If you cap deductions around the $30,000, $40,000 range, you can raise $1 trillion in revenue,” he claimed). But, so be it. In whatever form, it is clear that some Republicans, feeling the heat of November 6, are starting to warm up to an increase in federal revenues and it seems likely that more, perhaps enough to get a deal done, will follow.

Now comes the “if Democrats will do entitlement reform” part.

Appearing with Lindsey Graham on ABC’s This Week was Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who signed onto the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan.

He said a couple of things that illustrate the problems for President Obama and the Democrats, in terms of getting a deal that Democrats like me can support. First, Durbin suggested that Social Security shouldn’t be part of a larger budget deal since it is funded separately and “does not add one penny to our debt.” It’s pretty clear that most Democrats feel the same way. They believe that the relatively simple fixes for Social Security don’t belong in the discussion going on now. So, leave that program out of it.

Then we have this:

DURBIN: Medicare is another story. Only 12 years of solvency lie ahead if we do nothing. So those who say, “Don’t touch it, don’t change it,” are ignoring the obvious. We want Medicare to be there for today’s seniors and tomorrow’s, as well. We don’t want to go the Paul Ryan route of voucherizing it, privatizing it, but we can make meaningful reforms in Medicare and Medicaid without compromising the integrity of the program, making sure that the beneficiaries are not paying the price for it, except perhaps the high-income beneficiaries. That to me is a reasonable approach…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that include raising the age for Medicare eligibility?

DURBIN: Here’s my concern about that, George. What happens to the early retiree who needs health insurance before that person’s eligible for Medicare? I had it happen in my family, and I’ll bet a lot of your viewers did, as well. We’ve got to make sure that there is seamless coverage of affordable health insurance for every American. My concern about raising that Medicare retirement age is there will be gaps in coverage or coverage that’s way too expensive for seniors to purchase.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that a fair point, Senator Graham?

GRAHAM: Not really. I don’t think you can look at entitlement reform without adjusting the age for retirement, like Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan did. It goes to 66, 67 here pretty soon for Social Security. Let it float up another year or so over the next 30 years, adjust Medicare from 65 to 67 over the next 30 years, means test benefits for people in our income level. I don’t expect the Democrats to go for premium support or a voucher plan, but I do expect them to adjust these entitlement programs before they bankrupt the country and run out of money themselves. So age adjustment and means testing for both Social Security, Medicare I think is eminently reasonable. And all those who’ve looked at this problem have done that over time.

Democrats would, of course, agree to means-testing entitlements. No doubt about that. But raising the eligibility age for retirement and old-age health care? Not so fast.

Paul Krugman, a leftish economist, is definitely opposed to the idea, as he indicates in this short post, his generalized objection based primarily on the differences in life expectancy between economic classes (folks with lower earnings don’t tend to live as long as those with higher earnings, thus raising the eligibility age would have a disproportionately harmful effect on lower wage earners).

There have been more specific objections to raising the age, including these:

  • folks with physically demanding jobs would likely be forced to hang on another few years to keep their insurance;
  • cost-shifting to retirees who won’t have adequate income to absorb the increase;
  • an increase in the number of uninsured Americans (especially among low-income groups, including African-Americans and Hispanics);
  • the obvious increase in the cost to those employers who offer health care benefits to retirees (the employer plan would become the primary payer), which would, among other things, discourage employers from offering such retirement plans.

Now, an astute reader might suggest that some of these objections could be answered by provisions already in place in the Affordable Care Act. In fact, I heard a commentator this weekend suggest that raising the eligibility age for Medicare was no big deal since ObamaCare will provide coverage for those seniors who can’t afford it.

Well, that turns out to be partially true, at least according to a study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which looked at raising the age in the context of the Affordable Care Act (it assumed an increase in the Medicare eligibility age to 67 that would go into effect in 2014, just for simplicity). I suggest all those interested in this topic read that study, but its conclusion was as follows (highlights mine):

Previous studies conducted prior to the enactment of the 2010 health reform law concluded that raising the age of Medicare eligibility would produce significant federal savings, but would also increase the number of uninsured older adults and shift risk and additional cost onto retirees who lack health insurance and onto employers that offer retiree health plans. Our analysis, which takes into account the coverage expansions and subsidies in the ACA, finds that net federal savings to the federal government would be considerably lower than previously estimated because the federal government would incur new costs associated with expanded coverage for 65- and 66-year olds under Medicaid and premium tax credits and cost-sharing assistance for lower-income individuals in the new health insurance Exchange.

We estimate that nearly one-third of the 65- and 66-year-old adult population who would be affected by an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility [about 5 million people]—those with low incomes who would qualify for Medicaid or generous premium tax credits and cost-sharing assistance through the Exchange—would face lower out-of-pocket costs than they would have paid under Medicare in 2014 as a result of this policy change –generally those with incomes below 300 percent of the FPL [federal poverty level]. However, two-thirds would face higher out of-pocket costs, on average, due to higher premium contributions for employer-sponsored coverage and for coverage in the Exchange. The shift of adults ages 65 and 66 from Medicare to the Exchange is also projected to increase premiums that would be paid by adults younger than age 65 in the Exchange, as older adults enter the Exchange risk pool. In addition, Part B premiums paid by the elderly (ages 67 and over) and by disabled Medicare beneficiaries would be expected to increase, as the healthiest and lowest-cost segment of the Medicare population is removed from the Part B risk pool and shifted to the Exchange or to employer-sponsored plans. States and employers are also expected to see increased costs.

The study warns:

Given the magnitude of the changes that we estimate would occur by raising the Medicare eligibility age, this analysis underscores the importance of carefully assessing the distributional effects of various Medicare reforms and savings proposals to understand the likely impact on beneficiaries and other stakeholders.

It’s just not as simple as Republicans, like Lindsey Graham above, make it. And Democrats need to be careful about getting giddy over a possible Republican retreat on raising revenues and under the influence of such giddiness make a bad agreement on entitlements.

In short, Democrats need to remember who their constituents are.

President Obama Dope Slaps McCain And Graham At Press Conference

If you heard a loud pop this afternoon, it came from Washington, D.C., as President Obama, during an excellent press conference that every American should have seen, dope-slapped John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

And it’s about damn time.

Here was the question and the President’s remarks:

JONATHAN KARL: Thank you Mr. President. Senator John McCain, and Senator Lindsey Graham both said today that they want to have Watergate-style hearings on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and said that if you nominate Susan Rice to be Secretary of State, they will do everything in their power to block her nomination. Senator Graham said, he simply doesn’t trust Ambassador Rice after what she said about Benghazi. I’d like your reaction to that? And — and would those threats deter you from making a nomination like that?

OBAMA: Well first of all I’m not going to comment on various nominations that I’ll put forward to fill out my cabinet for the second term. Those are things that are still being discussed. But let me say specifically about Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill, and professionalism, and toughness, and grace. As I’ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her.

If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi? and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received? and to besmirch her reputation? is outrageous.

And, you know, we’re after an election now. I think it is important for us to find out exactly what happened in Benghazi, and I’m happy to cooperate in any ways that Congress wants. We have provided every bit of information that we have and we will continue to provide information. And we’ve got a full-blown investigation, and all that information will be disgorged to Congress.

And I don’t think there’s any debate in this country that when you have four Americans killed, that’s a problem. And we’ve got to get to the bottom of it and there needs to be accountability. We’ve got to bring those who carried it out to justice. They won’t get any debate from me on that.

But when they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me. And should I choose, if I think that she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity at the State Department, then I will nominate her. That’s not a determination that I’ve made yet.

That was a presidential beat down. And McCain and Graham deserved every bit of it.

The History of Romney’s Tax Return Game

Since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hurled his you-didn’t-pay-any-taxes-for-ten-years charge at Mitt Romney, Republicans have been circling the wagons around Mittens in hopes they can just shout away the controversy over his tax returns.

Over the weekend, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, a right-wing zealot named Reince Priebus, had no problem calling Reid a “dirty liar,” and Senator Lindsey Graham also claimed Reid was “lying” and “making things up.”

Well, thankfully Rachel Maddow did two segments last Friday evening that deftly pointed out the games Romney has played with tax returns, his and others’, as well as exposing just who started all this lying bidness about what’s in Romney’s own tax returns—spoiler alert: it was Mittens himself ten years ago!

If you didn’t see the segments, you need to, as you will clearly see Romney’s hypocrisy on this issue, including his telling a rather large whopper about his filing status as a Massachusetts resident when he was running for governor. Below is the first segment and the second one can be seen here:

The Terrorists Are Winning

A commenter reminded me of something very important going on in Washington: American citizens are about to lose their constitutional right to due process, should they be suspected of palling around with terrorists.

Even though cable TV news has largely, if not completely, ignored this issue, the U.S. Senate has been debating the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes an unbelievable provision that is written such that it could give the U.S. military authorization to indefinitely detain without trial American citizens—on American soil—suspected of being members of Al Qaeda.

I know, I know, it is hard to believe. But Lindsey Graham suggests that America is a terrorism battlefield and that suspected combatants, even American citizens, should be held under “the law of war” and not civil laws. “We’re trying to fight a war here,” said Mr. Graham. Using that logic, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that the Constitution is a necessary casualty in that never-ending war.

Both Missouri senators, Blunt and McCaskill, voted against an amendment Tuesday that would have removed the provision, the amendment failing 38-60.  Only two Republicans voted in favor.

Today, the Senate voted on another amendment that would have partly restricted the military’s ability—which even the military doesn’t want—to strip citizens of their due process rights. It failed 45-55.

President Obama, who has been accused by radicals on the right of dictatorial delights, has threatened a veto, if the detainee provision stays as is. It turns out he is not fond of trampling the Constitution after all.

Hopefully, this surrealistic episode will come to a good end, but as I am fond of saying, these are strange times.

Do some research on this issue. It will scare you.

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I heard Sen. Kelly Ayotte, of New Hampshire, say today, “We should not be telling terrorists they have a right to remain silent.” The terrorists to which she referred were those living on American soil. I suppose, in the rush to “protect” Americans, it never occurred to Ms. Ayotte that in America there still remains the idea, although it is getting harder to see it every day, that you are not a “terrorist” until held so by a court of law—of what?  Of law.

Obama Lost The War In Iraq, Don’t You Know

On the way to Springfield on Sunday I heard a BBC radio report relating how Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who has previously flirted with joining the Taliban, said:

God forbid, if there is ever a war between Pakistan and America, then we will side with Pakistan.

Then upon returning home I discovered that Lindsey Graham told Fox “News” that President Obama made a “serious mistake” by keeping to the Bush Administration timetable of troop withdrawal from Iraq at the end of this year:

Not being able to close the deal in Iraq is a very serious mistake. Celebrating leaving with no troops behind is a serious mistake… He’s put in question our success in Afghanistan and he ended Iraq poorly. He fumbled the ball inside of the ten. I hope I’m wrong about what happens in Iraq, but they are dancing in the streets in Tehran.

Then I learned that Lindsey Graham’s Siamese twin, John McCain, also criticized—on foreign soil—Obama’s Bush-endorsed decision on ABC’s This Week:

Well, I think it’s a serious mistake. And there was never really serious negotiations between the administration and the Iraqis. They could have clearly made an arrangement for U.S. troops.

Yes, I’m here in the region. And, yes, it is viewed in the region as a victory for the Iranians.

So, clearly the Republican establishment, as represented by Graham and McCain, believe Mr. Obama, who is simply following the plan of his presidential predecessor, is turning over the region to the Iranians. 

Then we have even nuttier charges, like this one from presidential candidate Rick Santorum, appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation:

I think that’s reason people are so upset, that, you know, we’ve lost — in many respects, we’ve lost control, lost the war in Iraq because we have Iran having broadened its sphere of influence.

Lost the war?  Obama lost the war?

In the midst of all this insanity, one must ask this rather sane question: Who is it that enhanced Iranian power in the region in the first place? Yep. The neocon philosophy-drunk Bush Administration, who altered the balance of regional power by invading and occupying Iraq, making it possible for the Iranians to potentially team up with the previously oppressed Shiite majority in Iraq and cause regional mischief.

By Republican reasoning, Mr. Bush lost the war just after we fired the first shot.

But was Graham or McCain or Santorum asked about that? Nope. Nor were they asked just how long the United States should stay in Iraq.  Ten more years?  Twenty? They should have been asked how many more Americans should die in Iraq, beyond the 4469 dead to date. Or how many more thousands of American wounded, beyond the 32,213 already suffering, will it take before Messrs. Graham and McCain and Santorum want to call it quits?

Not least, how much more of our treasure should be hauled overseas to flitter in an Iraqi wind?

All of which leads me back to Hamid Karzai.  The Afghanistan leader has given President Obama every reason to send him drone-delivered Christmas greetings from America. Thus, the requisite backtracking:

A spokesman for Karzai, Siamak Herawi, said the president had not intended any slight to the Western governments that have spent billions of dollars shoring up the Afghan administration during the 10-year war that has claimed the lives of at least 1,817 American troops.

“The media misinterpreted [Karzai’s] speech,” he said, adding that the president had been trying to express solidarity with Pakistan for having taken in millions of Afghan refugees during decades of war and the subsequent rule of the Taliban movement.  

Although it would send Lindsey Graham and John McCain and Rick Santorum into irreversible apoplexy, Mr. Obama should announce that he is stepping up troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, admitting that, like Iraq, a hundred more years in that Allah-forsaken place would at best only marginally advance American interests, which used to be the primary goal of our foreign policy.

Some of McCain’s Heroes Today Were Bush’s Terrorists Yesterday

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who pulled his head out of John McCain’s rectum long enough to talk to CNN, said of the U.S. involvement in Libya:

I like coalitions: It’s good to have them, it’s good to have the U.N. involved.  But the goal is to get rid of Gaddafi…So, I would not let the U.N. mandate stop what is the right thing to do.

In other words, to hell with the rest of the world, we’ve got bombs to drop!

For his part, John McCain, who seemed to be enjoying his Graham-free rectum, said on Sunday that a stalemate in Libya “would open the door for Al Qaeda to come in.”

Whoops!  It may be too late.  McCain, who on Friday called the Libyan rebels the “legitimate voice of the Libyan people,” and his “heroes,” also said,

I have met these brave fighters and they are not al Qaeda,” he said. “To the contrary, they are Libyan patriots who want to liberate their nation.

Except that the New York Times reported this weekend that a former Guantanamo detainee—he was released by the Bushies in 2007—who was “judged ‘a probable member of Al Qaeda’ by analysts there,” and deemed a “medium to high risk” as a threat to the United States, is now leading a “ragtag band of fighters” in Libya.  And the paper reported that,

American officials have nervously noted the presence of at least a few former militants in the rebels’ ranks. 

None of this gives Lindsey Graham or John McCain (or Israeli representative, Sen. Joe Lieberman) pause, however.  They want the U.S. to engage more aggressively in Libya, with Graham urging Obama to bomb Libya’s capital. He told CNN’s Candy Crowley:

My recommendation to NATO and to the administration is to cut the head of the snake off, go to Tripoli, start bombing Gaddafi’s inner circle, their compounds their military headquarters in Tripoli. The way to get Gaddafi to leave is to have his inner circle break and turn on him, and that’s going to take a sustained effort through an air campaign.

Apparently NATO was listening.  This morning comes word that NATO aircraft bombed Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, which renewed charges that the good guys are trying to assassinate Gaddafi. 

Whether we are, or whether we’re just trying to put the fear of Allah in him or his “inner circle,” as Graham suggested, it is clear that there will be no stalemate in Libya, even though a stalemate might be the best possible outcome, in terms of short-term regional stability.  Gaddafi’s days are numbered. 

What remains is the obvious question: What happens after Gaddafi is gone?  

Nobody, not Barack Obama or, Allah knows, not even John McCain, can give us a credible answer to that question.  Somehow, though, I suspect that whatever happens, President Obama—who is under pressure from the militaristic Right to step us his Libya game—will never get any credit for a good outcome, only blame for a bad one.

Republicans Planning Another Kidnapping

“If we get to the point where you’ve damaged the full faith and credit of the United States, that would be the first default in history caused purely by insanity.”

Austan Goolsbee, on ABC’s This Week

 

Watching Austan Goolsbee, chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, on television this morning, I finally got the sense that the administration understands just how crazy are the Tea Party Republicans.

It didn’t seem to surprise anyone in the administration that Republicans were willing to hold hostage millions of unemployed Americans in order to save rich folks from 1990s tax rates.  But now that there is another hostage situation developing—some Republicans are saying they won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling unless there are also cuts in entitlement programs—it appears the administration is finally going to get out ahead of this mess and control the debate.

On This Week, Goolsbee said the following:

Well, look, it pains me that we would even be talking about this. This is not a game. You know, the debt ceiling is not something to toy with. If we hit the debt ceiling, that’s essentially defaulting on our obligations, which is totally unprecedented in American history. The impact on the economy would be catastrophic. That would be a worst financial economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008.

As I say that’s not a game. I don’t see why anybody’s talking about playing chicken with the debt ceiling. If we get to the point where you’ve damaged the full faith and credit of the United States, that would be the first default in history caused purely by insanity. There would be no reason for us to default other than that would be some kind of game. We shouldn’t even be discussing that. People will get the wrong idea. The United States is not in danger of default. We do not have problems with that. This would be lumping us in with a series of countries throughout history that I don’t think we would want to be lumped in with.

On Meet The Press today, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham had no problem with publicly announcing his intention to execute yet another game of chicken:

To not raise the debt ceiling could be a default of the United States in treasury obligations. That would be very bad for the position of the United States and the world at large. This is an opportunity to make sure the government is changing its spending ways. I will not vote for the debt ceiling increase until I see a plan in place that will deal with our long-term debt obligations, starting with Social Security, a real bipartisan effort to make sure that Social Security stays solvent, adjusting the age, looking at means test for benefits. On the spending side, I’m not going to vote for a debt ceiling increase unless we go back to 2008 spending levels, cutting discretionary spending.

To be fair, Graham did suggest some ideas that might help solve the long-term debt problem, including means-testing the Republican-created entitlement program Medicare Part D.  But he also said, “Obama health care needs to be repealed and replaced,” so how seriously can we take anything else he says, when he knows that’s not going to happen?

Finally, if Obama and the White House deal with this hostage crisis the way they dealt with the last one, there’s no telling what damage Tea Party Republicans and their fellow travelers will do to the country, in terms of our commitment to those who aren’t wealthy Republican constituents.

Goolsbee’s words today offer some hope that they will handle this Republican threat much better.  And while we will have to come up with solutions to the deficit and debt problems ahead, the administration simply can’t allow Republicans to execute another political kidnapping with impunity.

Threatening a default on our debt obligations—thus risking an unprecedented economic crisis—should be characterized in precisely the terms Goolsbee used this morning: It’s insane.

War With Iran? Oh, my.

One of my fears of a John McCain presidency was a war with Iran.

I was fairly convinced that a President McCain would lead us into that war, given his tack to the right and his volatility.  But it’s not only the crazy right-wing these days who hint around that a war with Iran would be good for the United States.  In a strange column last week, David Broder, veteran syndicated “centrist” columnist and Pulitzer winner—he’s appeared on Meet the Press more than 400 times!—wrote this:

Here is where Obama is likely to prevail. With strong Republican support in Congress for challenging Iran’s ambition to become a nuclear power, he can spend much of 2011 and 2012 orchestrating a showdown with the mullahs. This will help him politically because the opposition party will be urging him on. And as tensions rise and we accelerate preparations for war, the economy will improve.

I am not suggesting, of course, that the president incite a war to get reelected. But the nation will rally around Obama because Iran is the greatest threat to the world in the young century. If he can confront this threat and contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, he will have made the world safer and may be regarded as one of the most successful presidents in history.

Huh?  Orchestrate a “showdown with the mullahs“?  What if the mullahs don’t understand Mr. Broder’s nuance here and decide President Obama is inciting a war to get elected and they oblige him? 

But such crazy ideas aren’t limited to 81-year-old political pundits.  Reuters reported this yesterday:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday that only a credible military threat can deter Iran from building a nuclear weapon, Israeli political sources said. [...]

“The only way to ensure that Iran will not go nuclear is to create a credible threat of military action against it if it doesn’t cease its race for a nuclear weapon,” one of the sources said Netanyahu told Biden.

“The economic sanctions are making it difficult for Iran, but there is no sign that the Ayatollah regime plans to stop its nuclear program because of them.”

Oh, my.

Well, at least Republicans are reigning in the rhetoric these days, right?  Wrong:

The United States faces a possible war with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions and a “period of confrontation” with China over its currency, a top US lawmaker warned Saturday.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said his fellow conservative, fresh from their historic elections romp this week, support “bold” action to deal with Iran.

Okay, okay. Maybe by “bold” action he meant something other than war.  Nope:

If President Barack Obama “decides to be tough with Iran beyond sanctions, I think he is going to feel a lot of Republican support for the idea that we cannot let Iran develop a nuclear weapon,” he told the Halifax International Security Forum.

“The last thing America wants is another military conflict, but the last thing the world needs is a nuclear-armed Iran… Containment is off the table.”

Well, now I’m worried.  But perhaps Mr. Graham didn’t mean full-scale war, just some sort of strategic strike to destroy the nuclear reactors and facilities, right?  Wrong:

The South Carolina Republican saw the United States going to war with the Islamic republic “not to just neutralize their nuclear program, but to sink their navy, destroy their air force and deliver a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guard, in other words neuter that regime.”

Little did I imagine that in the period of a week, a prominent columnist, a world leader, and what passes for a “sensible” Republican Senator would all suggest that war with Iran was the answer to a difficult question of what to do about that country’s nuclear ambitions.

As Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American writer, said this morning on Morning Joe,  Iran is “deeply nationalistic,” and, despite the widespread internal hatred of the government there, the Iranian people are,

…with the possible exception of Americans, the most patriotic, most nationalistic people on earth. This isn’t Iraq, this isn’t Afghanistan…sort of “fake” countries put together. And if you attack Iran, it’s the best way to ensure that [their] government goes absolutely nowhere.

It’s just a good damn thing that John McCain lost in 2008, or we might by now have three bleeping wars to weep over.

Here are Graham’s remarks and the discussion with Reza Aslan on Iran and the calls for war:


Thank God And Lindsey Graham America Is A Center-Right Nation

As the Republican Party quickly slides down the slippery slope of extremism, it’s not easy to find a moderate among them. Some people consider Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) such a moderate, and he was trying his best on Face the Nation yesterday to act all moderate-ish, as he warned Tea Party Republicans not to be so much like, well, Tea Party Republicans:

The American public is in the right-center of the road. They’re not in the right ditch or the left ditch. So, our Tea Party friends have done us a favor, but if we talk about doing away with Social Security, as part of our agenda, then we’re gonna lose the public.

The public is in the middle of the road, right of center…But if you get too far right or too far left, you’re gonna lose the American people.

Now, consider what Graham is saying here.  He claims that America is a “center-right” country, a claim made all the time by those on the right.  But then he claims that those center-right folks will reject Republicans, if they attempt to abolish Social Security, a New Deal program created by the left-wing of the Democratic Party.

I suppose in some strange way it’s okay to say America is a center-right, conservative nation, if by that one means that Americans seek to conserve massive, but effective liberal programs.  That’s the kind of conservatism even Democrats can support.  It’s nice to know that programs like Social Security and presumably Medicare are “right of center.”  Hallelujah!  Our side is winning!

But there’s still miles to go before we sleep.  As long as “moderate” Republicans like Lindsey Graham unashamedly spout nonsense like the following, there is plenty of work to do:

…most Democrats in swing states are running against Nancy Pelosi and against the Obama takeover of most of society, so this is a rejection of an overreach of governing from the left ditch.

Takeover of most of society“?  At least he didn’t call the President an anti-colonialist Kenyan Muslim Marxist, which, I suppose, does make him a moderate Republican these days.

 Hallelujah! 

Did Obama Make A Deal With Republicans On Offshore Drilling?

The mess in the Gulf may have exposed yet another example of the havoc that is wrought when Democrats attempt to make deals with Republicans, when those deals involve tossing overboard motivated Democratic constituencies, who then have no choice but to climb back on board and dry off.

In this case the motivated Democratic constituency  comprises environmentalists, who obviously have few friends in the Republican Party and rely on Democrats to help them protect the environment.

The “deal” was President Obama’s decision last month to increase offshore drilling, long a demand of the right-wing. And the deal, as Bill Nelson told MSNBC on Friday, was done because Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham insisted on it before he would help the White House pass a climate change bill this year.

As Sam Stein reports, an aide to Senator Nelson clarified the Senator’s remarks and told HuffPo:

The president needed Lindsey Graham to take the point on this. Lindsey wanted the drilling in the gulf. I think the president’s plan was viewed as the concession to Republicans in exchange for their support. This incident has killed [that].

Whether it was indeed a deal to get Republicans like Graham to support a climate change bill, or whether it is just more of Barack Obama being a pragmatist, we may never know.

But we do know that not only was the decision to expand offshore drilling offensive to environmentalist supporters of the president, it also met with resistance in the administration.

Here’s how Dan Froomkin opened a piece he wrote yesterday:

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration officials last fall warned the Department of Interior, which regulates offshore oil drilling, that it was dramatically underestimating the frequency of offshore oil spills and was dangerously understating the risk and impacts a major spill would have on coastal residents.

Froomkin also quoted the head of a whistleblowing group, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), who made a point that some Obama supporters are loath to admit: Democratic appointees in the administration have not done enough, in Froomkin’s words, “to reverse the anti-environmental and anti-science policies of the Bush years.”

Jeff Ruch, who is the head of PEER, said that agencies like the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS)* don’t look much different today than before the 2008 election:

“For the most part, the Obama team is still the Bush team,” Ruch told HuffPost, noting that beyond a thin layer of political appointees, offices like MMS are run by managers who were “promoted during the Bush years — In many instances, promoted for basically violating the law. And from what we can tell, their conduct hasn’t changed.”

Furthermore, Ruch said, Obama “sees environmental issues as a political bargaining chip.”

As I said, in this case I don’t know whether President Obama adopted his offshore drilling position because he thought it best for the country, or whether he was indeed using it as a bargaining chip designed to obtain a few Republican votes for his climate-change initiative.

But given the administration’s nearly year-long attempt to get just one Republican vote on health care reform, and given the fact that environmentalists don’t have another viable political party to call home, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if offshore drilling was offered as a fig leaf so a couple of weak-willed Republicans could do the right thing.

And I don’t know whether that says something bad about Democrats or Republicans or both.

__________________________________________________

*You may remember that MMS had some ethical failures during the Bush years, including taking money from oil and gas companies it was supposed to be regulating, screwing (in a Biblical way) oil and gas company representatives, and so on. The New York Times characterized the agency’s inspector general’s report this way:

The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch.

Republican Adventures In Wonderland

It’s Official: Republicans Lied

The Frank Luntz-inspired “bailout” mantra, applied to the Democrats’ financial reform proposal by Republicans like Mitch McConnell, can now officially be called a “lie.”

PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter has rated as FALSE McConnell’s (and by extension Luntz’s and all Republicans’) comments that “new financial regulations under consideration in the Senate” “will lead to endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street banks.

…we base our ruling primarily on the legislation. It clearly states that the intention is to liquidate failing companies, not bail them out.

Mr. Luntz, no doubt, will generate other ways to sabotage the efforts to reform Wall Street, but let’s hope the Democrats will not bend on this one.

 Aloha To Your Campaign Donations

Another example of how in-touch Republicans are with reality, not to mention with “regular folks,” the GOP filed FEC reports indicating that its semi-annual meeting, held in January in Waikiki, cost Republican donors a mere $340,000. According to the National Journal‘s Hotline On Call:

The $340K documented in FEC filings does not include airfare for each staffer, which could amount to tens of thousands more.

I wonder how far 340 grand would go here in Republican Southwest Missouri?  Heck, with that kind of money invested in local Republican politics, the party would never have to worry about competition from Democrats.  Oh, wait—there’s no competition from the Democrats now around these parts, so Aloha! to all you Republican donors!

 Let Me See Your Papers, Comrade!

Arizona Republicans have finally figured out a way to deal with illegal immigration: make racial profiling a state lawAccording to CNN:

Under the bill, police would be required to question anyone they suspect of being undocumented.

You have to love the way Tea Party Republicans interpret our Constitution, which they claim Obama is trashing.

Sadly, John McCain, who once championed sensible immigration reform, seems to have lost not only his soul, but his sense.  Here is an exchange he had with Bill-O:

O’REILLY: Now, next week, the governor is going to sign, we believe, a very stringent state law that gives the police in Arizona very, very broad authority to question people. And a lot of people say it’s going to be racial profiling. You’re going to look for Hispanics, question them, to see if they’re here legally or not. And it’s just not fair. And you say why?
MCCAIN: I say that the federal responsibilities have not been fulfilled. Therefore, the states are acting — the state of Arizona is acting and doing what they feel they need to do in light of the fact that the federal government is not fulfilling its fundamental responsibility to secure our borders. Our borders must be secure.
O’REILLY: But what about the racial profiling? You know that’s going to happen has to happen.
MCCAIN: I hope — I would be very sorry that if some of that happens. And I regret it, but I also regret the — really, it’s not just the murder of Robert Krantz. It’s the people whose homes and property are being violated. It’s the drive-by that — the drivers of cars with illegals in it that are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway. Look, our border is not secured. Our citizens are not safe.

Don’t ask me, I don’t know where you go to get both your integrity and your sanity back.

 Go Ahead, Make My Day And Say You’re Gay!

Finally, at a South Carolina Tea Party (where else?), we have a Republican struggling with decorum, but finally giving in to bigotry.  From HuffPo:

William Gheen, head of the conservative, anti-“amnesty,” anti-illegal immigration group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), spoke at a Greenville, S.C. Tea Party rally this weekend and called for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to “come out of that log cabin closet.”

Mr. Gheen said he “thought long and hard” about bringing up the rumors about Sen. Graham’s alleged homosexuality, but finally he just couldn’t help but call him on it. 

You see, because Lindsey Graham doesn’t want to act like Arizona Republicans on the immigration issue (he favors a more sensible approach, something like the old John McCain’s), he must be motivated by something else.  Mr. Gheen said:

Sometimes I wonder what it would take to sell their own country out like that, and there’s one thing it could be that I’m gonna put out in the open here today… Senator Graham, you need to come forward and tell people about your alternative lifestyle and your homosexuality.

When they say this about fellow Republicans, no wonder they don’t blink at calling President Obama a Marxist.

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