The Tea Party Was The Big Winner Last Night

If you want to know how Republicans manage to keep winning elections despite what they have done to the country, you need look no further than this headline:

mitch mcconnell

That may be the dumbest headline in the history of journalism. But it serves the purpose of portraying Mitch McConnell and other Republican winners last night as being less extreme than those radical Tea Party nuts. And sadly that headline pretty much captures what passes for the common wisdom among “objective” pundits on television and in print—that the Tea Party went down to defeat in last night’s primaries.

Fortunately, the body of the story gets to the truth of the matter:

Republicans can outfox their own: Call it the Orrin Hatch Rule, named for the Utah senator who won a seventh term in 2012. When conservatives on Hatch’s right came out hard to defeat the veteran GOP lawmaker, he focused early to win their support. The same can be said for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who assiduously courted his Kentucky colleague (and Tea Party darling) Rand Paul and hired a campaign manager with Tea Party cred.

In other words, those “GOP incumbents” did not “beat” a bunch of rebellious teapartiers as that headline would lead you to believe. Those GOP incumbents actually joined the rebellion. Almost the entire Republican Party has joined the Tea Party. And if almost all Republicans are teapartiers, the rebellion is over and the rebels won.

The USA Today article pointed out what one of the most radical right-wingers in the country had to say about last night’s so-called defeat of the Tea Party:

Tea Party ally Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks for America, which was out to defeat McConnell, argues that conservatives won the war by getting mainstream Republicans to embrace their agenda. “It’s clear that there is a larger cultural shift happening here,” Kibbe said.

Here’s Kibbe’s entire statement from the FreedomWorks website:

When the establishment runs on our issues, it’s clear that there is a larger cultural shift happening here. Constitutional conservatives and libertarians are setting the agenda in the Republican Party.

Kibbe is exactly right. To give you an idea of how right he is, another right-wing reactionary named Erick Erickson, whose RedState site is as Tea Party as it gets, said the following after it was clear that Mitch McConnell would win last night:

I will proudly support Mitch McConnell. 

Proudly, he said. And Erickson started things off with a financial contribution to McConnell’s campaign. That coming from a creepy guy who once said the following:

A while back, Glenn Beck called Barack Obama a ‘racist.’ Given all the terrorists, thugs, and racists Barack Obama has chosen as close personal friends (see e.g. Rev. Wright), it’s not a stretch to say it.

And:

Is Obama Shagging Hookers Behind the Media’s Back?…I assume not. I assume that Obama’s marxist harpy wife would go Lorena Bobbit on him should he even think about it…

About the retirement of Supreme Court justice David Souter, Erickson, with all the class of a teapartier, chimed in with:

The nation loses the only goat fucking child molester ever to serve on the Supreme Court.

And my personal favorite quote from Erick Erickson is one that comports well with what a state representative from my neck of the woods said recently. Erickson didn’t like it when a county in Washington state banned certain kinds of dishwasher detergent:

At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?…Were I in Washington State, I’d be cleaning my gun right about now waiting to protect my property from the coming riots or the government apparatchiks coming to enforce nonsensical legislation.

That guy, that Tea Party asshole, will “proudly” give his electoral love to Mitch McConnell. And it is all because Mitch McConnell and so many other Republicans running for office have given their love to him and other right-wing radicals. They are all sleeping in the same bed.

So, no, Republicans did not beat back a rebellion last night. The rebellion ended a long time ago. The GOP is now the Grand Old Tea Party.

 

The Triangulation Has Begun

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

—Mitch McConnell, November 7, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Photo:Getty Images]

How Ted Cruz May Save The Republican Party

Ezra Klein wrote a piece the other day titled, “If Ted Cruz didn’t exist, Democrats would have to invent  him.” The great Ezra ended with this:

Over the last 24 hours I’ve seen some Republicans complaining that President Obama and the Democrats are trying to break them. Their anger is misplaced. They should be angry at Ted Cruz for putting Republicans in a position to be broken.

I am sure there are many Republicans who are angry at Ted Cruz. But one of them isn’t Mitch McConnell. In fact, if Ted Cruz didn’t exist, Mitch McConnell would have to invent him. Why? Because Cruz has done what I didn’t think it was possible to do: make McConnell look good in comparison.

Mitch McConnell is as shrewd as he is slimy. And anyone, even a Ted Cruz, who can make the greasy craftiness of the Republican Senate Minority Leader look like adult reasonableness is now an asset to a Republican Party that is in desperate need of a public relations makeover. And the extreme behavior of Ted Cruz, Jim DeMint, and that strange gaggle of goofy zealots in the House of Representatives have allowed the establishment extremists, people like McConnell and Orrin Hatch and others, to come off sounding like voices of reason.

This development, my friends, should trouble Democrats.

McConnell, who has been a part of the Republican wrecking crew, has now assured the country there will be no more government shutdowns. Ahh. Ain’t that nice? Hatch, who is about as conservative a man as one would ever want to meet, called out DeMint’s groupthink tank, the Heritage Foundation. How great was that? Other Republicans, right-wingers all, have denounced the tactics of torpedo-toting teapartiers and are getting credit for doing so from the Beltway press corps.

One might be tempted to think that such behavior is a good thing, particularly a good thing for the country. But in this case it’s not, unless we all want to live in a society governed by ultra-conservative, if not ultra-nutty, policymakers. The reason that what we see happening on the right may spell trouble for Democrats and ultimately for the country is pretty simple. It’s all tied to the concept of triangulation. Let me borrow an image from Wikipedia’s entry on it:

What we will soon see, as 2014 gets here or before, are Republicans like McConnell (who is up for reelection next year and who is hoping to become Majority Leader if his party can win six extra Senate seats) trying to put themselves firmly, if falsely, on that “middle ground.” They will first confess that shutting down the government to defund ObamaCare was extreme behavior. Then they will concede that threatening the full faith and credit of the country was also out of line. They will then pivot to and run on two issues: anxiety over ObamaCare and anxiety over the national debt. They will say that there has been extreme behavior on both sides, but now the real threat to the country is with Democrats, who want to impose on the public a monster bureaucracy—an imposition that is now off to a horrendous start—and who want to raise more taxes and spend more money despite the $17 trillion debt we face.

While all this triangulating is going on next year, the anti-establishment extremists like Ted Cruz and the reactionary, recalcitrant radicals in the House will continue to do what it is they do. But increasingly more “adult” Republicans will speak out against them, posing as moderates who just want to tame the bureaucracy and get a handle on our debt. In reality, though, they share the goals, including many of the same social issue goals, of the anti-establishment radicals. They differ mainly in the strategy and tactics necessary to achieve them. And as time passes and the campaigns begin, money from business interests will flow into the coffers of non-Tea Party Republicans, money that once poured into the campaigns of those anti-establishment right-wingers who have caused much of the dysfunction we see today.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all this will be easy for Republicans to accomplish, particularly because Democrats have a lot of ammunition with which to fight back, mainly the ability to tie McConnell and other Republicans to Tea Party radicalism. But the triangulation strategy represents the best way Republicans have for winning the Senate and for keeping the House in Republican hands, especially if the press continues to present McConnell and other establishment extremists as the adults in the room.

As for 2016, such triangulation is how Chris Christie will, I predict, eventually win the Republican nomination for president. (He has already begun to use a version of the strategy and right-wing donors are anxious to dump truckloads of cash on him.)  Some people believe that the governor of New Jersey, who dared put his arm around Hussein Obama during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, is too disliked by primary-dominating conservatives to get the nomination. But how soon we forget that John McCain and Mitt Romney were also hated by those same conservatives. All it takes to get these people on board, albeit reluctantly, is the idea that Republicans can actually win a national election and achieve the power necessary to undo the damage that the Kenyan socialist has done to the country. It will also become obvious that most of the money men on the right, unfettered by campaign finance laws, are betting on Christie.

And should Chris Christie win not only the GOP primary but the national election, and should Republicans also win control of both houses of Congress, look out. A President Christie would be, in terms of the things Democrats hold dear, a very radical president indeed. Whether it is cutting rich people’s taxes, cutting government services and social programs, deregulating the economy, decimating unions, rolling back reproductive and gay rights, or any number of things on the reactionaries’ wish list, Christie and a Christie-friendly Congress could change the country in ways Ted Cruz only dreams of.

And, alas, all of it could happen thanks to him.

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:

Desperately Seeking Scandal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

priebus tweets

Priebus told fellow Obama-hater Sean Hannity:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said it was only a hope.

Remarks And Asides

I liked President Obama much more when he wasn’t dining with Republicans.

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Apparently, so did a lot of Americans:

Obama’s Approval Rating Now Underwater, Poll Shows

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Mitch McConnell, fresh off the revelation that he is more of a scoundrel than we otherwise thought, nevertheless managed to expose the mainstream press, which rather than focus on McConnell’s willingness to tolerate the trashing of Ashley Judd as “emotionally unbalanced,” instead focused on his call for an FBI investigation into the alleged illegal recording that revealed his sliminess.

And that is how miscreants like Mitch McConnell stay in power.

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Conservatives are attacking Obama for hurting old folks. Liberals are attacking Obama for hurting old folks. So, why is Obama hurting old folks?

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Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, whom President Obama considers a “friend” and who gets much credit for not being a nutty Republican, nevertheless called the emasculated agreement on background checks for gun purchases, worked out by Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey under the watchful eye of the NRA, “a government takeover of gun shows.”

Let’s get this straight: There are Republicans who don’t want the government sticking its nose in the gun business, but insist on the government sticking its nose in vaginas all over the country.

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Senator Rand Paul, Tea Party Wonder Boy at the moment, went to the historically black college, Howard University, on Wednesday and told those gathered that the Republican Party hasn’t changed a lick since, oh, Frederick Douglass was a baby, or something like that.

For his next stand-up comedy routine, Paul will team up with  Alaska congressman Don Young and tour central California and explain to the immigrant workers why “wetback” is a term of endearment and it really shows how Republicans are, and always have been, the party of immigration reform.

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And speaking of keeping the GOP up to date, Congressman Joe Barton, naturally from Texas, said not to worry about climate change, since the Almighty’s got everything under control and always has:

I would point out that if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.

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Speaking of brilliant Republicans, Dick Cheney told Republican lawmakers that “We’re in deep doo doo” with North Korea making all those threats and that because of his personal experience of misreading the mind of Saddam Hussein, “you never know what they’re thinking.”

What brilliance, what stupefying brilliance.

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Speaking of Dick’s stupefying brilliance, it didn’t take a Dick to figure this out:

Penis Size Study Shows Women Find Men With Big Genitals More Attractive 

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Speaking of weiners, some of them have eyes but still can’t see:

Anthony Weiner Is Eyeing A Return To Politics

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Ann Coulter, a skinny version of Rush Limbaugh, “joked” about murdering Meghan McCain, John’s daughter, and all that will happen to Ann Coulter is that conservatives will buy more of her books.

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The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, which hands out awards— “Jefferson Muzzles”— to deserving anti-free speech advocates, handed an award to one of Missouri’s bright-light state legislators, Mike Leara:

There are some…who believe that merely proposing a law that restricts gun rights should be a criminal act. Earlier this year, Missouri State Representative Mike Leara proposed a bill that provides “[a]ny member of the general assembly who proposes a piece of legislation that further restricts the right of an individual to bear arms, as set forth under the second amendment of the Constitution of the United States, shall be guilty of a class D felony.”

Congratulations, Mike! And wear your muzzle proudly!

Harry Reid Sings Along With Mitch

Here’s how HuffPo sees the filibuster deal between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell:

filibuster rulesThe opening paragraph from the HuffPo report:

Progressive senators working to dramatically alter Senate rules were defeated on Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), set to announce a series of compromise reforms on the Senate floor that fall far short of the demands.

So, although there are some marginal improvements in the filibuster process, individual Republicans remain free to sabotage the government in anonymity and thus with relative impunity.

The truth is, though, that given the current constitution of the House of Representatives, still gripped by Tea Party extremism, reform of the Senate filibuster is the least of the country’s worries.

A Short-Term Win For Democrats, A Long-Term Loss For Democrats?

We’re making permanent tax policies Republicans originally crafted.”

—Dave Camp, the Republican chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives

Republicans, at least those not completely ravaged by ideological stupidity, have finally been willing to embrace their substantial victory over Democrats, a victory represented by the last-minute deal to make the once-infamous Bush tax cuts permanent.

Early on New Year’s Day, Senate Republicans saw the light and accepted a Biden-engineered but Obama-blessed “compromise,” and later on New Year’s Day House Republicans—those 85 or so who for one reason or another realized they have won the tax debate—did the same.

All the while, most Senate and House Democrats couldn’t wait to get in line to vote to accept the deal (only 3 voted “no” in the Senate and only 16 voted “no” in the House), which, among other things, makes the Bush tax cuts, I’ll say it again, permanent.

Perhaps we should stop here and get Merriam-Webster‘s definition of the word permanent:

continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change.

That’s a lot of what happened on New Year’s Day.

I watched Grover Norquist, yes, Grover Bleeping Norquist, right in front of CNN, GOP Jesus, and everyone, bless his fellow Republicans as they were about to vote to do what conservatives a decade ago only dreamed of doing: making the Bush tax rate cuts permanent for 99.3% of taxpayers.*

Did you get that? Conservatives in 2001 and 2003 couldn’t even pull that off. When right-wingers passed the original Bush tax cuts, they were only for ten years. Obama extended them for two years just before they were due to expire at the end of 2010—under Republican threats to ruin the economic recovery—and now they have been made a part of the Democratic Party canon. Bragging rights for tax cuts now belong to Democrats, which they may eventually regret.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to extending the tax cuts for most Americans. We can’t afford to jeopardize the fragile economic recovery by removing almost $200 billion a year—that’s roughly the cost of extending the cuts for the 99.3%—from the mix.

But we also can’t afford to extend the full rate cuts for that entire 99.3% permanently—at a cost of $1.9 trillion over 10 years—as doing so will serve to support the “starve the beast” tactic that radical conservatives like Grover Norquist have employed as part of their strategy to turn the country into a 19th-century small-government, rich-man’s paradise.

As I see it, Democrats may have inadvertently aided the Norquistas in their quest to some day drown government, at least part of it, in Grover’s bathtub.

There are, of course, many good things in the package passed, including a five-year extension of the 2009 stimulus expansion of tax credits for the working poor and other tax credits for the needy, including families trying to get their kids in college.

Those on long-term unemployment will get an extension for another year; doctors who accept Medicare won’t get screwed in the next year; tax breaks for wind energy and corporate research are continuing for at least another year; the Alternative Minimum Tax will be permanently indexed to inflation; the Republican-stalled farm bill will get unstalled for nine months—enjoy your cheaper milk.

Most of what Democrats got they got without having to offer significant spending cuts, which would have hurt the economic recovery. All good.

But besides the permanence of the Bush tax cuts, there are other bad things in the deal. The estate tax, which beginning on January 1 returned to Clinton-era rates (estates valued at $1 million were exempted and estate transfers over that amount were taxed at 55%), is now permanently Republican-friendly: a $5 million ($10 million for a couple) estate exemption (indexed to inflation) and a top tax rate of 40%, which, as Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) said, is a “sweetheart giveaway to the wealthiest 7,200 estates in the country.”

Capital gains taxes, which enabled the Mitt Romneys of the world to enjoy millions of dollars in income and pay only 15% in taxes on it, will rise to a mere 20% (23.8% if Obamacare taxes are figured in) for those couples making more than $450,000 ($400,000 for individuals). So, if you are Mitt Romney, you will have to find a way to live without that extra dough. Somehow I think he’ll cope.

But he may not even have to worry about coping. Bloomberg Businessweek reported the following about the increased capital gains tax in the new bill:

Many households with incomes above $500,000 won’t face the higher rates at all, because deductions are subtracted from gross income before the rates are assessed.

Finally, the deal Joe Biden brokered with Mitch McConnell does nothing but delay a fight over the sequester and over the dreaded and fast-approaching fight over the debt ceiling that Republicans have pledged to use as a tool to force Democrats to cut entitlements. We are guaranteed to go through all this nonsense again, though this time it would threaten an economic crisis that would dwarf the one we just averted.

President Obama, in his statement after the House vote on Tuesday night, said this:

Now, one last point I want to make — while I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed. Let me repeat: We can’t not pay bills that we’ve already incurred. If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic — far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff.

Even though the President went to some trouble to explain that he will not negotiate with Congress over yet another stalemate over the debt ceiling, it is hard to see how he can avoid it, especially since Obama’s press secretary took the “constitution option” off the table recently:

This administration does not believe that the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling — period.

Section 4 of that amendment says,

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

Now, it is true that the President himself has not actually ruled out such a thing, saying this summer only that,

I have talked to my lawyers. They are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.

That statement, obviously, assumes court involvement. But any judiciary action—and some smart people believe the courts would not even get involved in this political matter—would require time. And Mr. Obama may conclude that by educating the public on the dire consequences of a failure to raise the debt ceiling, and given the extreme unpopularity of Republicans in Congress, that he will have plenty of latitude to do what needs to be do.

Additionally—and this may be the saving grace of this deal for Democrats—Obama said on Monday:

…if Republicans think that I will finish the job of deficit reduction through spending cuts alone — and you hear that sometimes coming from them, that sort of after today we’re just going to try to shove…spending cuts at us that will hurt seniors, or hurt students, or hurt middle-class families, without asking also equivalent sacrifice from millionaires or companies with a lot of lobbyists, et cetera — if they think that’s going to be the formula for how we solve this thing, then they’ve got another thing coming.  That’s not how it’s going to work.  We’ve got to do this in a balanced and responsible way.

That rather strong statement suggests that Obama has a definite strategy in mind for dealing with Republican threats to wreck the economy in order to get what they want.  If he does, and if his strategy is successful, the bad things in the fiscal cliff deal will not look so bad.

And let us hope that what Democrats have done—setting in stone tax cuts that have partly contributed to our fiscal problems—will not someday hinder them as they attempt to protect vital government programs from those who mean to drag the country back into the 18th century.

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*For those couples earning between $250,000 and $450,000, less generous Clinton-era tax exemptions and deductions will return, which will increase their tax liability and likely satisfy President Obama’s insistence of tax increases for the “top 2 percent”; but the tax rate cuts themselves are permanent for those couples making under $450,000, which is less than 1% of taxpayers.

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.

Surreality

How surreal it all is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Liberals Love Wealth”

A very thoughtful commenter, and fellow blogger (Brucetheeconomist’s Blog) who calls himself a “disaffected conservative,” appended the following to a piece I wrote on Mitch McConnell’s characterization of liberals as being “interested in wealth destruction” :

Saying liberals want to destroy wealth is absurd. I do think it is fair though to ask how much flattening of the income and wealth distribution should be a goal.

I’d like to see improved opportunities for those at the bottom of the ladder more than for those at the top rather than redistribution. That said the use of progressive taxes and social benefits for the poor is appropriate if all else fails to avoid the distribution of wealth being too inequitable.

If we could get the distribution of wealth back to where it was say in 1990 that would seem an appropriate goal to me. I don’t think any sensible person wants to perfect equality.

Any thoughts on this anyone else.

My reply:

Bruce,

Liberals love wealth. We want a lot of Warren Buffetts running around, making money, helping the country, and, uh, paying taxes.

The opportunities you (and I) seek “for those at the bottom of the ladder” can only come through investing tax dollars to create those opportunities, most of which come via education or job training. And since we have to get the tax dollars from those who have the money, “redistribution” is inevitable. How much? how much from whom? is fair to ask.

Apparently, we both agree that a grossly inequitable distribution of our nation’s wealth would not be a good thing. What about a moderately inequitable distribution? What, indeed, is a reasonable level of wealth inequality?

I don’t favor progressive taxation because I am a liberal. I am a liberal because I favor progressive taxation. I favor it because of my guiding concept of fundamental fairness (those that benefit the most from society should pay the most to maintain it as a civilized one—by 21st-century standards) and because, as I said, we need the money to do things we agree need done. And rich people have more money to spare than the rest of us.

I don’t know what a reasonable or realistic goal for national wealth distribution would be, only the ideal: a relatively equal distribution. I know that such a thing is not now, nor will ever be, possible to achieve, for a lot of reasons, including that some folks will always work harder than other folks and thus deserve more. How much more do they deserve? Beats me.

I only know that in order to provide the opportunities you and I agree are necessary, it costs a lot of money. It also costs a lot of money to keep the government doing other things for us, like inspecting our food and water; funding basic scientific research, supervising air travel; protecting us from enemies abroad and criminals at home; and keeping poor children, the sick and disabled, and the elderly from dying in the streets. In short, it costs a lot of money to keep America a desirable place to live for all.

And it is only fair—only fair—to ask those who have the resources, who for whatever reason have benefited the most from this bountiful land, to pay higher tax rates than those who have benefited less. How much higher? That is, inevitably, a political question that will always have evolving answers because of a changing polity.

But I suggest that we pay more attention to the growing divide between wealthy Americans and everyone else while there is still time to narrow the divide without recourse to more drastic measures, which will undoubtedly come when social instability becomes impossible to manage with a simple tweak of the tax code. As Justice Louis Brandeis famously said,

We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.

The relatively tiny progressivity involved in the restoration of the Clinton high-end marginal tax rates—which irritates Mitch McConnell so much he feels it necessary to slander liberals—is just one fix among many that should follow. 

Duane

“The Holy Grail Of Liberalism”

I heard Mitch McConnell, who spent four years as the leader of Senate Republicans trying to undermine Barack Obama’s presidency by undermining the economic recovery, say this today:

The only reason Democrats are insisting on raising rates is because raising rates on the so-called rich is the holy grail of liberalism. The holy grail of liberalism. There aim isn’t job creation; they’re interested in wealth destruction. Not job creation, but wealth destruction.

Like the Holy Grail related to Jesus, which mythically found its way into the hands of tidy-white Europeans for safekeeping (uh, but they seem to have lost it anyway), the myth that McConnell and other conservatives believe about liberals, you know, that we hate rich people and want to take all their stuff, is a persistent myth.

It is so persistent that a prominent leader of the Republican Party—right in the middle of what are supposed to be serious discussions on the budget—thinks nothing of standing on the floor of the U.S. Senate and proclaiming it to the world.

But is it really just a myth? Are liberals really “interested in wealth destruction” ? Really? Of course we are! Why? Because we want everyone to be poor! We want everyone to suffer and starve and die! That’s what we want. We want to destroy the rich so everyone can die in misery and pain equally. Yep, that’s what we want.

And the first step in doing that—our holiest of grails—is to put those onerous 39.6% Clinton tax rates back on the backs of the rich so they will just give up and quit. So they will just surrender all their money to us. So we can then take their money and give it to lazy slobs, mostly lazy slobs of color, who don’t want to work, who don’t want to do anything but live off the efforts of others, who want nothing more out of life than to sit around the house and suck the life out of the wealthy, those productive folks who Republicans tell us create all the jobs.

Jobs? Did someone say jobs? Who the hell needs jobs when we can destroy the wealthy!

Yes, that’s what we want; that’s why we exist.

And after all the wealth is gone, after we get our holy grail, and get our jollies on all that “wealth destruction,” then we liberals can sit back and watch everyone croak.

All thanks to us! Long live liberalism!

More Hell From Harry Reid

One of the biggest failings of the mainstream press over the past few years has been its lack of clear and continual reporting on Republican obstructionism in Congress, particularly how Republicans in the Senate have used the filibuster to obstruct Democratic—and democratic—governance.

I would guess that most regular folks, even people who are routine consumers of news but maybe not political junkies, don’t really understand how the modern filibuster—which traditionally meant talking a bill to death—works and don’t understand why it is that in a body of 100 members, in a Democratic society, that it takes 60 votes to get any real business done.

And that lack of understanding of how the U.S. Senate works is partially the fault of the press, which tires rather quickly of reminding folks of such technical matters, even though those technical matters matter a lot, in terms of what has been happening in Washington.

Read this stunning paragraph from Ezra Klein:

Filibusters used to be relatively rare. There were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s combined. A strategy memo written after the 1964 election by Mike Manatos, Lyndon B. Johnson’s Senate liaison, calculated that in the new Senate, Medicare would pass with 55 votes — the filibuster didn’t even figure into the administration’s planning.

Think about that. Medicare, a remarkably large social program, was not only not filibustered, it wasn’t even expected to be filibustered. Compare that to these days of Republican minority obstructionism, where even mundane matters—like whether a bill should even be debated—are subject to the filibuster, requiring the majority to invoke cloture and, if 60 votes can be rounded up, to end the filibuster and move on to the matter at hand.

As Klein says,

Today, the filibuster isn’t used to defend minority rights or ensure debate. Rather, the filibuster is simply a rule that the minority party uses to require a 60-vote supermajority to get anything done in the Senate. That’s not how it was meant to be.

There is serious talk among Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, of changing the rules regarding the filibuster. It turns out that on the first day of a new Congress, the next new one is scheduled to meet on January 3 of next year, there is a method available—now known as the “nuclear option” — for adopting rule changes in the Senate with only a simple majority vote—a filibuster wouldn’t work.

Now, obviously Democrats have to be careful here. They likely won’t always be in the majority in the Senate, and it would be foolish to set a precedent that would completely shut down the minority, much like the minority in the House is made irrelevant by its rules.

To that end, Harry Reid, who should have acted before the opening of the last session of Congress in 2011, is proposing what he calls “a couple of minor changes” to make the Senate “more efficient.” Those changes include:

♦ eliminating the right to filibuster the debating of a bill, but not the right to filibuster the final passage of the bill itself

♦ forcing filibustering Senators to actually stand on the Senate floor and conduct the filibuster, as opposed to merely invoking a filibuster from their offices

Those sound like sensible changes, some would even say too sensible, since the filibuster would still exist and 60 votes would  still be needed to pass legislation, given what mood Republicans have been in since the Dawn of Obama.

So, how did the leader of the obstructionists, the man whose one self-admitted priority four years ago was denying Barack Obama a second term, how did that guy, Mitch McConnell, react? Come on, you know how. He got pissed. He called it a “temporary exercise of raw partisan political power,” and a “naked power grab.”

Other Republicans were equally outraged. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, no stranger to overstatement, threatened something, but I’m not sure what:

I think the backlash will be severe. If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you’ll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we’ll do what we have to do to fight back.

Do what we have to do to fight back” ? Huh? Is he going to blow up the place? Because if he’s not going to wedge a grenade down Harry Reid’s trousers, what else is available? Obstruction? That’s what Republicans have been doing.

As Reid said of such threats,

What more could they do to us?

What more, indeed.

For his part, Ezra Klein says that Reid’s minor reform effort “doesn’t go nearly far enough.” He writes:

The problem with the filibuster isn’t that senators don’t have to stand and talk, or that they can filibuster the motion to debate as well as the vote itself. It’s that the Senate has become, with no discussion or debate, an effective 60-vote institution. If you don’t change that, you haven’t solved the problem.

Defenses of the filibuster tend to invoke minority rights or the Constitution’s preference for decentralized power. It’s true the Founding Fathers wanted to make legislating hard. That’s why they divided power among three branches. It’s why senators used to be directly appointed by state legislatures. It’s why the House, the Senate and the president have staggered elections, so it usually takes a big win in two or more consecutive elections for a party to secure control of all three branches.

But the Founders didn’t want it to be this hard. They considered requiring a supermajority to pass legislation and rejected the idea. “Its real operation,” Alexander Hamilton wrote of such a requirement, “is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of government and to substitute the pleasure, caprice or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent or corrupt junta, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.” Sound familiar?

Of course that sounds familiar. We have been living with Hamilton’s description ever since Mitch McConnell declared war on President Obama. And it is McConnell who has led his “corrupt junta” into unprecedented abuse of an important Senate rule, a rule that must be used judiciously or else it becomes, in Ezra Klein’s words, “a noxious obstacle” :

Filibusters are no longer used to allow minorities to be heard. They’re used to make the majority fail. In the process, they undermine democratic accountability, because voters are left to judge the rule of a majority party based on the undesirable outcomes created by a filibustering minority.

Yes, voters are left to judge. But they need critical information to properly judge. And that critical information comes largely from the press, which did not do a good job of explaining how dogged Republicans were in their pursuit of those “undesirable outcomes” that Klein referenced.

But despite that, despite the trembling economic recovery, despite an entire cable news channel and almost all of talk radio against them, Democrats were able to largely prevail in November.

And making a couple of modest changes to the filibuster rule in the Senate may just make governing a little easier. If it doesn’t, if Republicans dig in their obstructionist heels even deeper, then at least the American people will be able to see them, day after obstructionist day, standing on the Senate floor holding up progress.

And that in itself would be progress.

“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.

Here’s What Obama, The Winner, Should Say In Private

Although you wouldn’t know it by listening to them, Republicans did lose the election.

At least I think they did.

Mitch McConnell, the lead saboteur who failed to sabotage Obama’s chances of reelection, fired off a statement to one of the most virulent right-wing websites in the country, Breitbart, and said this:

One issue I’ve never been conflicted about is taxes. I wasn’t sent to Washington to raise anybody’s taxes to pay for more wasteful spending and this election doesn’t change my principles. This election was a disappointment, without doubt, but let’s be clear about something: the House is still run by Republicans, and Republicans still maintain a robust minority in the Senate. I know some people out there think Tuesday’s results mean Republicans in Washington are now going to roll over and agree to Democrat demands that we hike tax rates before the end of the year. I’m here to tell them there is no truth to that notion whatsoever.

Everyone knows that McConnell’s Kentucky senate seat is up next time, and since the only thing that matters to him is political power, the first thing he has to do to keep the little power he has is to make sure teapartiers don’t challenge him in a Republican primary. Thus, he has to grovel before them like the low-life reprobate he is.

In any case, the President is supposed to deliver a “fiscal cliff” speech today to address the confluence of budget dilemmas that face the country at the end of this year.

I obviously don’t know what he will say publicly, but here is what he should say privately to Mitch McConnell:

I won. Despite your best efforts to screw me and the country over, I won. And Democrats won. There are now more of us in the Senate. Sorry about that. I know you were counting on being Majority Leader. Ain’t gonna happen. Live with it. In fact, you may have a tough time getting elected next time against that Democratic fox Ashley Judd.

In any case, here’s the deal: Your party does still control the House. I’ll give you that. But that doesn’t entitle you to get your way. You see, I campaigned on raising taxes on those who are prospering. I told folks that’s what I wanted to do. And I’m gonna do it. And you can threaten me with that fiscal cliff bullshit all you want. I ain’t having it. If you want to go there, if you want to risk all those Pentagon cuts, hell, if you want to shut down the whole damned government, all in service to your rich friends and to those Tea Party creeps, so be it.

But I’ll tell you this: I will visit every bleeping town in Kentucky, from Bowling Green to Butcher Holler, from Louisville to Lick Creek, and tell them what you are doing. I’ll tell them that you are willing to wreck the country just to give Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers tax breaks. I’ll tell them you would rather see taxes go up on middle class folks in Kentucky than give one inch in your quest to let rich Republicans keep a few more dollars.

And I’ll tell them just how slimy you are, just what you have tried to do. 

You won’t get your way this time. I’ve got nothing to lose politically. Can’t you see that? Those tax rates on the rich, the ones that existed when Bill Clinton was president and the country was prosperous, they are going to go back up, Senator. And if you want to stand in the way of that necessary first step in getting our fiscal house in order, then I’m going to run right over you.

See ya when negotiations start.

Food And Republican Logic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dreams

I saw a Tweet last night from Eric Cantor, who, along with Mitch McConnell, is one of the Chief Obstructors of the Republican Party, obstructors who have helped keep economic growth sluggish under President Obama and thereby hurt folks who haven’t achieved the dream that, say, Mitt Romney has achieved.

Cantor’s message is one, ironically, that pretty much sums up the purpose of the Republican Party and the reason Mittens wants to be prez:

Mitt Romney is the candidate for people…who dream big dreams and achieve them, he said.  “And achieve them.”

Hmm. If you are a person who dreams big dreams but doesn’t quite achieve them, Mitt Romney’s not your guy.

I think Cantor got that just about right.

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.

With Apologies To The Titmouse

As the weak job numbers came in this morning, I thought about just how successful Republicans have been in preventing the economy from increasing employment.

Economists know what would increase job growth in the short term, most Republican legislators know it, almost all Democrats know it, and President Obama is certain of it.

But yet we are still treading water, and almost 13 million folks who want jobs don’t have them, and millions more are working only part-time, against their wishes. And worst of all, millions are in the dreaded category of the long-term unemployed.

Mitt Romney, basking in the partisan glow of anemic job growth—only 84,000 private sector jobs added in June, for a running total of 4.4 million over the last 28 months—said this morning:

American families are struggling. There is a lot of misery in America today.

Indeed there is. And, to the extent Republican politicians can summon a whit’s worth of concern about that misery, the solutions they offer are, as President Obama said yesterday (and again this morning) just the same old trickle-down economics, which he called a “coherent theory”:

You can see it on their websites.  They don’t make a secret about what they’re planning to do.  The only problem is we tried it — we tried it for about 10 years right before I was elected as President of the United States, and it didn’t work. It didn’t make the middle class stronger.  Job growth was sluggish.  Your wages and your incomes did not go up. It didn’t grow our economy the way it needed to.  And it culminated in the worst financial crisis we’ve had since the Great Depression.  So their theory was tried.

Well, Mr. Obama may give the other side too much credit for having a theory of middle-class-aiding economics, coherent or otherwise. His opponents’ twin operating theories alternate between a strategy that can deliver an electoral knockout punch to what they perceive to be the economic glass jaw of the President, and the need to protect the moneyed class that supports their lamentable lust for power.

If the poor, the children, the elderly, the working  and middle classes, and the country in general suffer because of these alternating theories, then so be it.

Other than Mitt Romney, who has traded what political decency he may have had for a mess of pottage cooked up by contemptuous and contemptible conservatives, the person who to me most represents the right’s unseemly appetite for power and unreserved advocacy for the wealthiest Americans, is Mitch McConnell.

On Fox “News” Sunday, Chris Wallace tried to pin down the electorally lustful McConnell several times on just how he and the Republican Party, after killing the Affordable Care Act, would “extend insurance access to 30 million people who are now uninsured.”

Obviously stunned by a Fox host practicing real journalism, McConnell finally managed to say:

That’s not the issue…

WALLACE: You don’t think the 30 million people that are uninsured is an issue?

MCCONNELL: Let me tell you what we’re not gonna do: we’re not gonna turn the American health care system into a Western European system. That’s  exactly what is at the heart of ObamaCare. They want to have the federal government take over all of American health care…

So, the short answer is, nope, Mitch McConnell doesn’t think that a tenth of the country going without health insurance is an issue, at least an issue more important than the country going another election cycle without him as the Senate Majority Leader.

All of which leads me to a story on Politico.

President Obama was speaking Thursday in Sandusky, Ohio, when he met a woman named Stephanie Miller, who was crying when they talked. Here are a couple of photos of the moment:

Here is the account from Politico:

“I thanked him for the getting the Affordable Health Act passed,” Miller said, referring to the health care overhaul the Supreme Court upheld last week.

Miller said her sister passed away from colon cancer four years ago — partly because she could not purchase health insurance.

“Even after she was diagnosed with cancer, she was told her income was too high for Medicaid,” Miller said.

I don’t know why the Republican Party has devolved into a shelter for repugnant reactionaries, who by their politics and selfish political theories suggest that Stephanie Miller’s sister isn’t worth discussing with a host on Fox “News,” or, more important, with the American people.

But I do know if more Americans are forced to confront the harsh reality lived by people like Stephanie Miller’s late sister, if they are obliged to acknowledge that millions upon millions of folks are not enjoying the bliss of American exceptionalism, and if they find out that Republicans offer nothing to change that reality other than a Randian economics that has previously shipwrecked the economy, then Mitt Romney will never hold the office he has corrupted himself to get.

And Mitch McConnell will remain a tiny titmouse of a man whining his crestfallen song before an increasingly irrelevant minority in the United States Senate.

Where’s The Outrage?

Mitch McConnell, who may be the most disgusting politician in Washington, said on Tuesday:

In all likelihood, we will agree to continue the current payroll tax relief for another year, but we believe that it should be paid for.

Now, sure, one could and should get angry about Republicans suddenly deciding that in order to give middle class folks tax relief, there must be a way to pay for it.  Because when giving their rich constituents tax cuts, Republicans argue, as a central tenet of their economic philosophy, that those tax cuts pay for themselves.

So, yes,  this obvious hypocrisy should definitely spike our piss meters. But what is nearly as upsetting is the too-often tepid response from some spokesmen in the Obama Administration, sometimes including the President himself.

Example: A very nice woman and senior advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, appeared on MSNBC this morning and was given a chance to comment on Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy on the payroll tax cut issue. The question she was asked was a softball—teed up with jet engines strapped to it—that Jarrett simply had to swing at, and the thing would have set distance records.

Joe Scarborough said to her,

Is Republican Mitch McConnell saying that he doesn’t want this tax cut if it’s not paid for? Because if Mitch McConnell is saying that—and it looks like he is saying that—he would appear to be the first Republican in the history of Washington, D.C., to say they don’t want a tax cut unless it is, quote, paid for, because we Republicans generally believe that tax cuts pay for themselves—the economy grows, daisies bloom in the back yard, male patterned baldness is reversed—is that really what he’s saying?

JARRETT: Joe, I love your sarcasm. I don’t know. I’ll leave it to you to speak for Senator McConnell…[blah, blah, blah]

Now, keep in mind that Mitch McConnell is the President’s most prominent political enemy, a man who vowed to make Mr. Obama a one-term president. Through the filibuster and other parliamentary tricks in the Senate, McConnell has stood in the way of the President’s jobs plan and other initiatives that would have helped the economy and therefore average Americans.

And Mr. Obama’s senior advisor, before a national audience, given the perfect chance, couldn’t muster enough anger to attack him for what is clearly blatant hypocrisy?

That kind of stuff, the unwillingness to get pissed off about what Republicans are doing to the country, is nearly as maddening as what Republicans are actually doing to the country.

Earlier this week, New Jersey governor Chris Christie said this about the failure of the supercommittee:

I was angry this weekend, listening to the spin coming out of the administration, about the failure of the supercommittee, and that the president knew it was doomed for failure, so he didn’t get involved. Well then what the hell are we paying you for?

You know, the reason people like Chris Christie, and the reason he gets all kind of credit for being “outspoken” and “real,” is because he actually gets pissed off. Albeit he gets pissed off about the wrong things, as the quote above demonstrates, but people like to see passion, and they especially like to see passion in defense of the average guy.

Look at this headline in today’s New York Times:

Line Grows Long for Free Meals at U.S. Schools

Here’s the first paragraph:

Millions of American schoolchildren are receiving free or low-cost meals for the first time as their parents, many once solidly middle class, have lost jobs or homes during the economic crisis, qualifying their families for the decades-old safety-net program.

That is happening on Obama’s watch because politicians like Mitch McConnell are playing political games, protecting the wealthy from tiny tax increases, worrying suddenly and hypocritically about paying for tax cuts, and generally hurting ordinary Americans, who have already been victimized by Republican economics and the Great Recession.

And the response to that kind of stuff should not always be a calm, rational one delivered with a smile, but one that shows some anger, some outrage, some indignation that people are suffering just so Mitch McConnell can sit in the big-boy chair in the U.S. Senate.

What Wimpy Journalism Looks Like

On Morning Joe this morning, Mark Halperin was a guest blabber.

Halperin, who serves as a senior political analyst for Time magazine and as an MSNBC contributor, said this about President Obama and his recent moves on jobs and the deficit:

He’s still going to have to find a way to get John Boehner to do business with him to get anything done.

After I coughed up my breakfast burrito over that one, I heard Halperin offer up the idea that Republican talk about wanting to work with the President to get things done is “somewhat disingenuous.”

Somewhat disingenuous?  Somewhat?  That’s like saying Charles Manson is somewhat psychopathic or that Newt Gingrich is somewhat chubby.

Nothing could be more obvious—except in the commentary of TV journalists like Mark Halperin, who hyperextend their journalistic spines trying to appear fair and balanced—than the fact that Republicans don’t want to work with President Obama. They have even had the rocks to say so. Out loud.  Where even Mark Halperin could hear them. 

Yet, Republicans are only “somewhat disingenuous.” Such is the state of much TV journalism these days.

And that is just one of ten thousand examples of this kind of journalistic malpractice.  On Sunday, the venerable Meet the Press, now fronted by the unvenerable David Gregory, featured an appearance by Mitch McConnell, who famously said last October:

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

McConnell is no less committed to that plan this year, and the David Gregorys of the media world help him in his efforts with interviews like the one on Sunday, which began with this question to McConnell:

GREGORY: Let me start with you and ask you whether this presidential plan on a millionaire’s tax rate is something that you could support?

Now, before we get to McConnell’s response, let’s first think about the question.  David Gregory knows very well that McConnell will never in a quadrillion years support Obama’s plan.  He knows that because McConnell has said so, repeatedly.  So, why even ask him this question?  Oh, you might say, this crafty journalist is just laying the ground work for some real journalism to come later.  Let’s see:

McConnell: Well, you know we had that vote, David, a couple of years ago, when the Democrats basically owned the Congress.  They had overwhelming control of the Senate and the House, and it was defeated then. So, I would simply go back to what the president said last December in signing a two-year extension of the current tax rates: it’s a bad thing to do in the middle of an economic downturn. And of course the economy, some would argue, is even worse now than it was when the president signed the extension of the current tax rates back in December. I think what he said then still applies now.

Mitch McConnell is a skillful politician. This wasn’t his first Meet the Press rodeo. He’s ridden a lot of bulls through the years and Gregory is one he could ride all day, while sipping a Mint Julep and thumbing through a copy of The Prince.  Notice how the Minority Leader pivoted from Gregory’s question to asserting that Obama is contradicting himself?  Wow, that’s nice form. 

And it’s really easy for McConnell because he doesn’t have to worry much about having to defend what he did. Gregory’s follow-up question ignored what McConnell actually asserted and went on to ask him an obviously prepared second question:

GREGORY: What’s unfair, though, about making richer Americans pay the same tax rate that middle-income Americans do?

Now, even though McConnell didn’t mention anything about fairness, Gregory ask him about it. Any other time that would be a good question—but not as a follow-up to what McConnell asserted previously.  This would have been a great time for Gregory to nail McConnell on his party’s recalcitrance and its stonewalling.  Remember what he asserted:

1. That Democrats had previously voted on Obama’s tax idea and rejected it.  Gregory could have asked, “Okay, Senator, when did Democrats vote down a tax on the rich?  What are you talking about? Democrats were too chicken to vote on a millionaires’ tax.”

2. That Democrats “basically owned Congress” and that they had “overwhelming control of the Senate and the House.”  Gregory could have said, “Okay, Senator McConnell, you know that Democrats didn’t have the 60 votes needed to break your party’s constant filibusters in the Senate.  And even with the two independents—one a reliable Democratic vote and one not—Democrats only had those potential filibuster-breaking 60 votes for a very short time in July and September of 2009. How can you say Democrats had “overwhelming control” of the Senate when you know they didn’t?

3. President Obama essentially sided with Republicans about raising taxes being “bad” for the economy.  Gregory could have mentioned that Obama only caved in on the tax issue last December because Republicans had a gun to the head of the unemployed and the economy.  Or, perhaps more journalistically, he could have asked a question this way:  “Now, Senator, do you really think Mr. Obama agrees with your economic policy, and, if so, why do so many in your party call him a socialist?”

Pursuing any or all of those lines of questioning would have been the thing to do, it seems to me.  But then I’m not a big-time, wealthy TV news man, who has been seen defending the worst of conservatives.

As for Gregory’s real follow-up question about the tax fairness issue, McConnell proceeded to insult Warren Buffet, lie about the potential effect on small businesses, and assert that there was “bipartisan opposition” to Obama’s tax policy already.

And what did Gregory do?  Like he always does, he moved on.

Where is Tim Russert when you need him?

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.

____________________________________

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.

_______________________________________

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.

_______________________________________

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.

________________________________________

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.

Here’s Some Tough Love For Mr. Obama

The most conservative member of the House of Representatives—a teapartier’s teapartier—is a congressman from Colorado, Doug Lamborn.

Mr. Lamborn, showing little respect for the President of the United States, referred to Mr. Obama as a “tar baby.”  Here is the context:

Even if some people say, ‘Well the Republicans should have done this or they should have done that,’ they will hold the President responsible. Now, I don’t even want to have to be associated with him. It’s like touching a tar baby and you get it, you’re stuck, and you’re a part of the problem now and you can’t get away. I don’t want that to happen to us, but if it does or not, he’ll still get, properly so, the blame because his policies for four years will have failed the American people.

Now, Mr. Lamborn has apologized for the tar baby remark and is counting on the President to accept his apology, “because he is a man of character.”

Okay.  But what about the real point of Mr. Lamborn’s comments?  Read them again, forgetting the tar baby nonsense: The people will hold the President responsible for the economy so, “I don’t even want to have to be associated with him.” Obama will get “the blame.”

You see?  That has been the strategy of Republicans since November of 2008.  Mr. Lamborn said, “Some people say, ‘Well, the Republicans should have done this or they should have done that,’ but “they will hold the President responsible.”

Republicans, as Mr. Lamborn and Mitch McConnell have been slyly honest enough to admit, have no intention of helping the President solve our nation’s problems.  Far above anything else, they want to hinder and defeat him. Since Barack Obama was elected, Republicans in Congress have treated the matter like it were a heavyweight fight, pummeling him round after round, while the economy languishes.

Mr. Obama, on the other hand, has only occasionally thrown back punches, mostly hoping against hope that his rope-a-dope strategy of “compromise” and collegiality would mean a victory for the American people.

It hasn’t worked.

These are extraordinary times in our country, and we need leaders to match.  Mr. Obama has to realize that the Republicans in Congress, despite his pleas, have made governing the country next to impossible and see their vow of obstinance as part of a strategy to win the next election, which is only a part of their greater fight to transform the country into a reactionary Tea Party utopia.  We are already in the late rounds of that fight and the Republicans are winning.

The President needs to stop leading with his bipartisan chin.  He’s getting the hell knocked out of him, and by extension, the rest of the non-moneyed class. He needs to understand that he will get no cooperation from the other side.

Thus, he needs to do more than just get himself reelected by courting independents with talk of compromise and collegiality with Republicans, which isn’t working.  He also needs to fight hard for a Democratic Congress, or else nothing of substance will get done. He may win the 2012 election round but the fight with Republicans will continue.

Last night in Chicago, at a Democratic National Committee event, the President, a heavyweight campaigner, said some of the right things, but he also said things like this:

The good news is that after this week we have made a legitimate down payment on deficit reduction in a way that’s actually responsible, that is not going to dismantle our social safety net, isn’t going to prevent us from making the key investments we need to win the future.

Good news? There was no good news in the fiasco that just ended, and opinion polls reflect that.  The President paid the other side’s ransom and the economy was saved this time from a disaster. Good news? Mr. Obama should stop talking this way because it is not fooling anyone, especially independent voters who he is trying to woo.

He continued:

But it also sets the stage for what is going to be a singular debate over the next year and a half, and that is two alternative visions about where the country needs to go. 

I give the other side credit.  They are single-minded in their focus, in wanting to cut programs and shrink government.

He’s right, of course, about the alternative visions.  But giving the “other side credit” is part of what’s wrong with Mr. Obama’s approach in the late rounds of this fight.  The other side was willing to shoot the economy in the head—much as it is now doing with FAA funding—and to give them credit for such behavior is a little like giving The D.C. Sniper credit for a steady hand.  It is misplaced and out of tune with the moment.

He needs to start, loudly and incessantly, calling Republicans out for what they have done and were willing to do to the average American.  He needs to start naming names.

Fight! Mr. Obama.  With both hands.  With both feet. With both sides of your considerable brain.

And if you get knocked out of the ring in 2012, so be it.  You can proudly exit the arena, covered in sweat and blood, through the front door.

[Lamborn photo from Denver Post/Hyoung Chang]

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.

Does President Obama “Own The Debt-Ceiling Fiasco”? Nope.

A commenter wrote in to ask my opinion of Karl Rove’s article in The Wall Street Journal the other day, titled Obama Owns the Debt-Ceiling Fiasco.  The commenter, Randy, wrote that the article,

Seems spot on to me, but I am open to other perspectives.

Okay. Here is another perspective:

Randy,

I’m afraid I have to concur with HLG who said that,

Karl Rove is an amoral bald-faced-liar that even when he appears to be telling the truth (which he does so rarely), he still can’t be trusted.

Let me tell you what the Rove piece was designed to do: Tell Republicans to look like they’re fighting hard for a deal, go ahead and cave in at the last minute in some fashion, and the GOP and GOP outside support groups, flush with cash from anonymous donors, will see to it that the 2012 campaign is all about how Obama doesn’t care about the deficit because he is an “incompetent liberal,” à la Jimmy Carter.

Rove begins his piece, filled with little untruths, with this truth:

President Barack Obama and Congress face a mess if the federal government hits the debt ceiling Aug. 2.

In terms of truth-telling, it’s all downhill from there. He says that,

This would be a disaster with no political winners.

Oh, yes, there would be political winners, depending on what the House of Representatives does.  Mr. Obama, whatever you or Rove think of his sincerity, has made it clear to that small segment of the American people paying attention, that he has tried to reason with unreasonable Republicans. If this ship goes down, the culprits will be easily found, tried, and convicted.

You see, Randy, there will always be this fact left over, after all the smoke has blown away from any potential crisis: Republicans refused to take a $4 trillion debt-ceiling deal, filled mostly with budget cuts, in order not to raise taxes slightly on the wealthy of this country

That’s it, Randy. That is how Democrats will sell this thing next year, one way or the other.  If a crisis ensues, the sell job will be easy because most people already know that Republicans today exist to protect the moneyed class. 

Indeed, the moneyed class has finally bought itself a political party, and Karl Rove is one of their spokesmen.  Which leads me to reveal the real reason Republicans like Rove and Mitch McConnell don’t want to take the generous offer Obama made them: It would instantly make President Obama look like he’s doing something big on the national debt, the GOP’s big wedge issue in 2012.

And for folks like Rove and McConnell, this is all about defeating Obama and gaining political power, not what is best for the country.

Duane

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