How To Get A Job On Fox “News”

I watched President Obama’s press conference on Tuesday at The Hague. Man, oh, man. What is it about those ABC News guys?

First, a little background:

When Fox “News” first opened up its fairly unbalanced doors in 1996, a 23-year veteran of ABC News, Brit Hume, joined them. Hume had been ABC’s Chief White House Correspondent, and at Fox he was the anchor of Fox’s “Special Report” for ten biased years.

In 2003, another prominent ABC News correspondent, Chris Wallace, joined Fox. Wallace, son of Mike, still hosts the closest thing−and sometimes it isn’t that close−to a real news show on the network, “Fox News Sunday.”

John Stossel, who for years was a correspondent and co-anchor of ABC News’ 20/20 program, left ABC in 2009 to join Fox “News” and Fox “Bidness” Channel, where he preaches his libertarian ideas to, if not the choir, at least the gullible.

Earlier in 2009, Michael Clemente joined Fox as a Senior Vice President of News, after spending 27 years at ABC News, including a stint as senior broadcast producer for ABC’s World News Tonight and later for 20/20. His last job at ABC News was as Senior Executive Producer of the ABC Digital Media Group.

If you happen to watch Fox “News,” you will see Rick Klein, who is a “regular guest.” Except that Rick  Klein is the Political Director for, uh, ABC News! Now, I understand that ABC does not have its own cable news platform, but why allow your Political Director to appear so often on Fox? Is it because occasionally Fox promotes his stuff for ABC? If so, ABC News ought to be ashamed of itself.

All of which leads us to Tuesday’s press conference at the Hague. Jonathan Karl, who is currently ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent, actually asked President Obama these questions:

Mr. President, thank you. In China, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Russia we’ve seen you make strong statements, issue warnings that have been ignored. Are you concerned that America’s influence in the world, your influence in the world is on the decline? And in light of recent developments, do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America’s biggest geopolitical foe? If not Russia, who?

If that sounds to you like something John McCain might ask, or something that Reince Priebus might ask, or something that Sean Hannity might ask, you have good ears. Karl is apparently auditioning for Roger Ailes and, as a long-time Fox monitor, I’d say he is well qualified for a job on the network. Or just about any reactionary operation. Here’s how a few right-wing sites reported on Karl’s performance at The Hague:

right wing responses to karl

And my personal favorite, posted by Jonathan Karl’s Fox friend Greta Van Susteren, includes a proud shot of the ABC News correspondent:

greta and jon karl

As you can see, Karl is something of a journalistic hero on the right. But that’s not just for what he did at The Hague yesterday. When you examine Karl’s body of work, you see why the right-wingers love him so.

He started his reporting career in a right-wing organization created to promote conservative journalism on college campuses, the same kind of collegiate journalism that gave us people like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. Karl also worked for Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, which is basically Fox “News” in print. He has written articles for the right-wing Weekly Standard (including this embarrassing piece), a publication that helped bring us the Iraq War.  At ABC News, if you watch his reporting, you see a clear bias in favor of Republican talking points, including the need for austerity and tiny tales of government waste. Because I like Diane Sawyer, I frequently watch her newscast, and the best one can say about Karl’s reporting is that it slants to the right; the worst one can say about it is that, well, Karl is an undercover reactionary.

Nothing demonstrates his conservative bias better than his infamous mishap involving the Fox-created Benghazi scandal. Karl went on the air last spring and unethically fed into the Fox Benghazi narrative by erroneously “quoting” from an email that he himself had not read. The false quotes, presented as “exclusives,” made it appear that the White House (read: Barack Obama) and State Department (read: Hillary Clinton) had “dramatically edited” the famous Benghazi talking points used by Susan Rice on all the Sunday news shows. We found out later that Karl was fed his false information by, uh, congressional Republicans. He sort of apologized for the error and ABC News should have sort of fired him, but on he goes.

Given Karl’s track record, you have to wonder why President Obama, who has publicly compared Jonathan Karl to Fox’s Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry, didn’t answer Karl’s question this way:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Wow, Jonathan! Isn’t ABC treating you well? Aren’t they paying you enough? Did Roger Ailes promise you a job and a raise if you came here to the Netherlands and tried to claim how weak I am on the world stage? Isn’t that Fox’s “Obama meme du jour”? No, wait. They’ve been saying that for some time now. But, congratulations anyway! I think you’ve got the job you obviously want whenever you want it. I look forward to not calling on you at my next presser. Oh, and tell Mittens that Mr. President said “hey.”

Instead of that, President Obama, soberly and thoughtfully, answered in a way that demonstrated what real strength is and why we are fortunate the American people chose him to lead the country in these perilous times:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jonathan, I think if the premise of the question is that whenever the United States objects to an action and other countries don’t immediately do exactly what we want, that that’s been the norm, that would pretty much erase most of 20th century history.

I think that there’s a distinction between us being very clear about what we think is an appropriate action, what we stand for, what principles we believe in, versus what is, I guess, implied in the question, that we should engage in some sort of military action to prevent something.

You know, the truth of the matter is, is that the world’s always been messy. And what the United States has consistently been able to do, and we continue to be able to do, is to mobilize the international community around a set of principles and norms. And where our own self-defense may not be involved, we may not act militarily. That does not mean that we don’t steadily push against those forces that would violate those principles and ideals that we care about.

So yes, you’re right, Syria — the Syrian civil war is not solved. And yet Syria has never been more isolated.

With respect to the situation in Ukraine, we have not gone to war with Russia. I think there’s a significant precedent to that in the past. That does not mean that Russia’s not isolated. In fact, Russia is far more isolated in this instance than it was five years ago with respect to Georgia and more isolated than it was certainly during most of the 20th century when it was part of the Soviet Union.

And what we have to make sure we’re…putting all elements of our power behind finding solutions, working with our international partners, standing up for those principles and ideals in a clear way.

There are going to be moments where military action is appropriate. There are going to be some times where that’s not in the interests — national security interests of the United States or some of our partners, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to continue to make the effort, or speak clearly about what we think is right and wrong. And that’s what we’ve done.

With respect to Mr. Romney’s assertion that Russia’s our number one geopolitical foe, the truth of the matter is that, you know, America’s got a whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength, but out of weakness.

Ukraine has been a country in which Russia had enormous influence for decades — since the breakup of the Soviet Union. And you know, we have considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally don’t need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them. The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more.

And so my response, then, continues to be what I believe today, which is Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan, which is part of the reason why the United States, showing its continued international leadership, has organized a forum over the last several years that’s been able to help eliminate that threat in a consistent way.

Bill O’Reilly, Jason The Surfer, And The End Of American Civilization

Bill O’Reilly likes to talk about race hustlers and parasites. Well, it takes one to know one. Using his own standards of judgment, O’Reilly is a race-hustling parasite himself.

His show, a tribute to narcissism, has lately found him doing the race hustle in front of race-anxious whites, those who find it a bit unsettling to have someone other than a white man occupy The White’s House and who find it depressing that America is browning. O’Reilly exploits white angst and makes money off that exploitation.

But I’m particularly pissed off about the latest Fox-inspired attempt to put the blame for our financial and cultural troubles on those O’Reilly calls “parasites.” Billo once again brought up a guy now known as “Jason the Surfer“—no relation to Joe the Plumber—whom Fox managed to unearth in California, and who spends some of his monthly SNAP money (reportedly $200) on, Jesus forbid, sushi and lobster.

O’Reilly said,

This guy is a parasite. And my contention is that the Obama administration is encouraging parasites to come out and, you know, take as much as they can with no remorse and this is how a country declines. This is how we become a weak nation.

Now, if you’re like me, you find it hard to imagine that President Obama or anyone in his employ has spent a millisecond trying to figure out how to get California surfers to avail themselves of food stamps.Jason-Greenslate

And, if you’re like me, you also find it hard to believe how a kid on a surf board with a belly full of taxpayer subsidized sushi and lobster—even if it’s only a rare treat (at these prices)—can lead to the decline of American civilization, especially when all those Romney types are still out there hard at work practicing vulture capitalism, described famously by Republican Rick Perry during the 2012 campaign:

They’re sittin’ out there on the, on the tree limb, waitin’ for the company to get sick, and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass, they leave with that, and they leave the skeleton.

Newt Gingrich also famously said during that campaign the following:

I think we have to be honest about this. One of the reasons people who like free enterprise do not like Wall Street is that they see very rich financiers who rig the game, so the taxpayer loses, the worker loses, and somehow the rich guy does okay…If we identify capitalism with rich guys looting companies, we’re gonna have a very hard time protecting it…Is it fair to have a system, is it right, is it the kind of country you want to live in to have a system where somebody can come in, take over your company, take out all the cash and leave behind a wreck? And they go off to a country club having a great time and you go off to the unemployment line.

I remind you that people who do such nasty things in this country are essentially subsidized by everyone else. Many pay a lower rate of taxes because they have talked (via ca$h) the establishment into believing that all of what they do is essential to the economy and the nation’s well-being. That scam goes on while the race-baiting, cultural-angst-exploiting Bill O’Reillys of the world focus on a mixed up 29-year-old kid in California who gets a couple of hundred bucks a month in food help.

As I have said many times before, if we go down as a civilization, I’d rather it be by trying to make sure folks have enough to eat—even if a few folks game the system for a few bucks—than by making sure Mitt Romney’s vulture-money can vacation comfortably in the Cayman Islands.

Steve King, Ted Nugent, And Team Republican

It is assumed, by most talking journalistic mugs in the medium of cable television news and elsewhere, that Steve King, Republican congressman from Iowa, is a member of the “fringe” of the Republican Party. He’s waaaay out there, it is said.

So, when Steve King labeled most undocumented immigrants as “drug mules” with Herculean, cantaloupish calves who could haul 75 pounds of dope through the desert, it was considered a nutty act by a former dirt-mover in Iowa who, polite commentators want to assure us, is not a mainstream Republican.

Except that in June the supposedly fringe-friendly King offered an amendment in the House of Representatives that would have essentially forced the government to deport “DREAMers“—young folks brought into the country by relatives and who don’t have proper documentation—and his amendment passed the House! Oh, and it passed the House with 221 Republican votes (including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and local right-winger Ozark Billy Long)! Some fringy congressman King is. Only six—six!—Republicans voted against the extremist amendment.

Like Steve King, another conservative, Ted Nugent, is not considered a mainstream right-winger because, as the mainstream press would tell you, he says crazy stuff on the scale of a Steve King. When told of Stevie Wonder’s performance boycott of Florida, due to the state’s Stand Your Ground law, Nugent said:

You’ve got to be kidding me. So 700 black people, mostly young children and young people were slaughtered in Chicago last year by black people, and not a peep out of Stevie Wonder. Are you kidding me? What is this, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? How brain-dead do you have to be? How strangled by denial, how dishonest, how cheap do you have to be to focus on a clear-cut case where all the evidence, from the DOJ, from the FBI, from the army of investigative specialists in Florida determined that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense against a life-threatening attack by hoodlum, dope-smoking Trayvon Martin?

Leaving aside the fact that he lives in a fact-free world, what Nugent said has been said, in one form or another, by most conservative pundits on TV and elsewhere. The opinion he expressed above is mainstream conservative opinion, whether any leader of the Republican Party or whether any mainstream media journalist wants to admit it.

If that isn’t enough to convince the average journalist that Steve King and Ted Nugent are smack in the middle of contemporary GOP thought, if not eloquence, then the average journalist should consider this:

I’m looking here at Steve King. He needs to be your Congressman again. I want him as my partner in Washington!

That, of course, was the loud voice of the last Republican to run for President of the United States. Remember him? Remember Mittens Romney? He spoke those words in September of 2012. And Steve King was as nutty then as he is now, yet the guy who represented the GOP in the last national election, the guy who represented what the party stands for, not only accepted King’s endorsement, he said, again:

I want him as my partner in Washington!

Yeah, boy!

What about Romney and Ted Nugent? Oh, there was this:

nugent romney endorsementAccording to Nugent, Romney called him and asked him for his endorsement. And that call and that “long heart&soul conversation” came after Nugent, among other things, had called Democratic leader Debbie Wasserman-Schultz a “brain-dead, soulless, heartless, idiot,” and after he called former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi a “sub-human scoundrel,” and after he referred to President Obama as a “piece of shit,” and after he referred to Hillary Clinton as a “worthless bitch” and a “toxic cunt.”

Yeah, that must have been some heart&soul talk the gun-loving, pants-crapping, draft-avoiding rocker had with the Republican Party’s national presidential candidate.

After Nugent’s endorsement, Tagg Romney tweeted out this keeper:

tagg tweet on nugent

How cool is that? Very cool! Ted Nugent and Steve King, even if they don’t always express their conservatism with phony Washington politeness, are on Team Republican!

nugent mainstream republican

“A Species Of Madness”

I don’t do this often, but I must share with you a comment I received on Monday from a frequent and insightful contributor to the ongoing discussions on this blog. I know a lot of you folks don’t dive into the comment section, but you really should. You will learn a lot of stuff or be directed to places where you can learn a lot of stuff, or you can be one of those who teach the rest of us a lot of stuff.

In case you missed this one, here it is:

thegeneralist commentThe book, The Fall of the House of Dixie, can be purchased here, and here is a link to a review from NPR Books, which includes this:

As its ranks dwindled and in a last gasp, the Confederacy, too, had a plan to recruit black soldiers. In 1864, Confederate President Jefferson Davis approved a plan to recruit free blacks and slaves into the Confederate army. Quoting Frederick Douglass, Levine calls the logic behind the idea “a species of madness.”

One factor that contributed to this madness, he says, “is the drumbeat of self-hypnosis” that told Confederates that “the slaves are loyal, the slaves embrace slavery, the slaves are contented in slavery, the slaves know that black people are inferior and need white people to … oversee their lives. … Black people will defend the South that has been good to them. There are, of course, by [then] very many white Southerners who know this is by no means true, but enough of them do believe it so that they’re willing to give this a chance.”

Considering what might have happened had there been no war at all, Levine thinks slavery could well have lasted into the 20th century, and that it was, in fact, the Confederacy that hastened slavery’s end. “In taking what they assumed to be a defensive position in support of slavery,” he says, “the leaders of the Confederacy … radically hastened its eradication.”

The “Average Person” Is A Liberal

Wonkblog published a very interesting piece (“No, the 2012 election didn’t prove the Republican Party needs a reboot”) by John Sides, an Associate Professor in the Political Science department at George Washington University.

Sides essentially argued that much of the Republican hand-wringing over the last election, which has caused some of the party architects to think they need to reorient the party toward more (relatively) centrist positions in order to win national elections, is unnecessary. He suggests that things are not so bad for Republicans as the Romney defeat might indicate.

Let me say from the start that I don’t give one good damn about the reformation of the Republican Party. As far as I’m concerned, given what it has become, I hope it wanders forever in the wilderness of doubt and uncertainty about itself. I hope the so-called civil war within the party continues unabated for at least as long as it takes our sun to convert its last atom of hydrogen into helium and swells into a red giant that will swallow up the earth, sort of the way Newt Gingrich attacks the all-you-can-eat buffet on the campaign trail.

Any political party whose leaders have to, say, appease pale-faced zealots like Rush Limbaugh before they can endorse sensible immigration reform (as Marco Rubio, a Limbaugh butt-sweat slurper, is doing right now) is not a party worth saving.

But I do want to take issue with something that Professor Sides claimed in his article, to wit: Even though Mitt Romney moved far to the right in the GOP primary, that ideological move did not hurt him as much as most of us thought:

…it does seem true that Romney had to tack right in the primary.  But when the general election rolled around, who did voters perceived as ideologically closer to them, on average: Romney or Obama?  Romney.

Sides uses a YouGov survey from January 2012 until election day to make that rather startling point:

Sides says:

Although over time both Romney and Obama were perceived as moving farther away from the average voter, Romney was still closer to this voter on Election Day.  The candidate who would have benefited most from a shift to the center was Obama.

Naturally, since I perceived Barack Obama as having shifted to the center on so many—too many, for my particular tastes—issues, I was quite surprised by Professor Sides’ claim here.

Could it be that the far-right Mitt Romney, the one who embraced a harsh stance on immigration reform that only Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh could love; the one who was called a “vulture capitalist” by his own GOP competition; the one who made that repulsive 47%-of-the-country-are-moochers comment in front of fat-cat donors; the one who picked the extremist, Ayn Rand-loving Paul Ryan for his running mate; could it be that that Mitt Romney was closer to the “average person” than Barack Obama?

Hell no.

What we are dealing with here are the way people, when asked in polls or surveys, interpret the words “liberal,” “moderate,” and “conservative.”  Notice how the “average person” in the graph plots himself or herself right there in that comfortable “moderate” range. Why is that? Because most people like to think of themselves as not too hot or not too cold, and people generally don’t perceive their political beliefs to be anywhere near one of the ideological poles, even if they obviously are.

When I was a conservative, I heard conservative commentators tell me all the time that the majority of Americans were “with us,” that we represented the “average person.” Now that I am a liberal, I hear the same thing. Americans are “with us” liberals. And both of those claims can’t be true.

So, what is true?

Notwithstanding the arguments of Professor Sides, and other political scientists who rely way too much on the self-perceptions of survey respondents in taking the ideological temperature of the country, we have one fairly reasonable way of gauging the ideological proclivities of voters: how do they respond to specific issues?

Let’s take a look at several of them:

GUN CONTROL:

fox poll on gun control options

GAY MARRIAGE:

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS:

ABORTION POLLS

SOCIAL SECURITY (a liberal program par excellence):

social security survey

MEDICARE (another liberal program):

MEDICARE CUTS POLL

MEDICAID EXPANSION UNDER OBAMACARE:

medicaid expansion poll

TAXING THE RICH:

TAXING THE RICH POLL

Mitt Romney was on the wrong side of all of those issues. The Republican Party still is. A majority of Americans, despite how much they want to perceive themselves as “moderates,” actually support liberal programs and policies.

I suppose something can be said for the fact that people who support liberal ideas consider that support to be the very definition of “moderation,” which is bad news for a Republican Party that is still waging war on women’s reproductive freedom, homosexual rights, and the well-being of the poor; which is still protecting above all else the interests of the moneyed class; which is still trying to repeal the New Deal, and which, as we speak, is threatening to derail even the most mild form of gun control legislation.

Is The Joplin Globe Rising From The Dumb?

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

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

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

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

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

“Those figures” were these figures:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fixing The National Debt, One Meal At A Time

Tuesday’s Joplin Globe editorial noted the effect sequestration, which has become reality at last, is having on “our area senior centers,” as they try to “meet the demands of a growing homebound meals program” :

Now, federal cuts that went into effect on Friday could result in an 8.5 percent reduction in funding for the Area Agency on Aging. Stan Heater, the executive director for our agency, said that could reduce the annual number of meals served by about 12,000.

The Globe didn’t publish this editorial, however, to criticize sequestration, President Obama, or, God forbid, the real cause of the sequestration mess, the Republican Party. Nope. The paper was merely urging folks to donate to the local senior centers to help offset the cuts.

Fine. If local folks want to do that, good for them. The Area Agency on Aging, a 501 (c)(3) organization, does good work. But the Joplin Globe at least should explain to folks who happen to read this editorial why it is that 12,000 fewer meals may not be served. Perhaps the paper should also tell us if it endorses the sequester, the result of austerity-drunk conservatives holding President Obama and the nation’s credit rating hostage in 2011.

In its endorsement of “severely conservative” Mitt Romney last year, the Joplin Globe also endorsed austerity-drunk conservatism. The paper explained to us that we should be very worried about the national debt and “unchecked government spending,” which it called “the issue that most threatens our nation’s future well-being.”

Perhaps it is. And perhaps it is so serious that it is worth reducing funding to organizations that serve meals to old folks. What’s missing a meal or two when we have all that debt to worry about?

In the mean time, we have this:

House Republicans are proposing this week to restore upward of $7 billion to operations and maintenance accounts for the four military services hit hard by the automatic cuts that went into effect Friday night.

I just wonder how many meals organizations like the Area Agency on Aging could serve to seniors with that $7 billion?

Yeah, I just wonder.

 

Capital Gains Taxes And Small Minds

Phil Kerpen is a contributing editor for National Review Online. He has been a vice president of Americans for Prosperity and a policy analyst for the Club for Growth and the Cato Institute, as well as a writer for Fox News Opinion. In short, you get the idea: he is a conservative’s conservative these days.

I want you to read a paragraph from a piece published on Monday and written by Phil Kerpen for National Review Online:

President Obama likes his Clinton nostalgia — he has told the American people his tax increases are a return to the policies of the booming Nineties. It is ironic, therefore, that Obama insists on actually reversing one of the most critical economic successes from the Clinton years: the capital-gains tax cut. Before Clinton signed the 1997 budget deal, the capital-gains rate was 28 percent, and with Clinton’s approval of the cut it fell to 20 percent; Obama now insists on raising it to 23.8 percent, undoing not just Bush’s capital-gains-tax cut but almost half of Clinton’s, too. Such a move would undermine the fragile economic recovery while being unlikely to raise any federal revenue.

Absorb that. Right now, and since 2003, the long-term capital gains tax rate (on assets sold after being held for more than one year) for high-end income earners is, uh, 15%, as Mitt Romney taught us with his tax return. After this year, that rate will, without further action, rise to 20%.

According to Phil Kerpen, the conservative’s conservative, a mere move from the upcoming 20 percent to an Obama-blessed 23.8 percent in the capital-gains tax rate will, “undermine the fragile economic recovery while being unlikely to raise any federal revenue.”

Yes, that 3.8 point difference is crucial for gazillionaires like Mitt Romney. By God, if they get taxed that extra amount, they will take their toys and go home. To hell with America, and Americans.

In the mean time, from the Center for American Progress, we get this:

2012 capital gains tax

And, because of the effect of lower capital gains tax rates on gazillionaires, we get this:

effectivd federal tax rates in 2007

As you can see, if you earned $50,000 in 2007, you paid roughly the same effective federal income tax rate (this doesn’t include regressive state and local taxes) as someone who earned $345,000,000.

And that’s the way conservatives, conservatives like Phil Kerpen and Mitt Romney, think it should be.

Now, we have all heard the argument that giving rich folks a break on capital gains promotes economic growth and job creation, right? But, as the Center for American Progress says:

the evidence to support this claim is lacking and it is difficult to find any correlation between low capital-gain rates and economic performance over time.[4] The capital-gain rate was 28 percent throughout much of the 1990s—a time of strong business investment, rising productivity, and spectacular economic growth. By contrast, the capital gains and dividend tax cuts of 2003 were followed by a period of weak investment and growth—even before the recession began in 2007.

Think about how silly is the argument by Phil Kerpen that a 3.8 point difference in capital gains taxes will “undermine the fragile economic recovery.”

The small mind that argues that is only trumped by the small minds that would make his prophecy come true.

Imagine

There was a reason I never praised Mitt Romney for his short but ostensibly gracious concession speech on election night.

I suspected someday, sooner or later, that speech, like the one who delivered it, would be exposed as disingenuous. And so it has.

He said in that speech:

The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing.

Oh, yeah?

The very first time we hear from Romney after he gave that speech, after he said “we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing,” we hear courtesy of The New York Times, which reported on remarks he made during a conference call to his campaign’s national finance folks, you know, “his” folks, those able to raise and donate large sums of money.

Now, we know from experience that in front of his kind of folks Mittens is free to be himself, as he was before those fat cats in Boca Raton. He told them, when he thought the rest of us weren’t listening, that nearly half of all Americans are moochers, a claim that dovetailed nicely with one of his campaign assertions that those who want “free stuff” should look elsewhere.

And, according to Romney’s latest remarks, they did.

On the phone with those fundraisers and moneyed donors who helped finance his campaign (one of the participants allowed The New York Times to listen in), Romney whined that he lost the election because President Obama gave free stuff to “the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

Part of that free stuff was health care:

Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, ObamaCare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people.

Damn those kids! Why should they want health care?

But he said there were others who wanted it too:

You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge. Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus.

You can imagine,” he said to those well-off campaign financers. “You can imagine” what it would be like to not have the money to get health care. “You can imagine” how happy you would be if suddenly you could get health care for your kids, or, God forbid, for yourself. “You can imagine,” he said to folks who aren’t in the business of imagining such things.

Imagine, indeed.

Imagine if Mitt Romney had become president.

One Nation, But Only Under A Republican God

There are two stories in the news today that I think are related, even though at first glance they don’t appear to be.

Here’s the first story from Reuters:

CHICAGO, Nov 12 – Political watchdog and secularist groups are asking the U.S. government to investigate whether Catholic bishops and a Christian evangelical group headed by preacher Billy Graham should lose tax breaks for telling followers how to vote in this year’s election.

Those tax breaks are reportedly “worth $145 billion in the past decade.” There was no comment from a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but a spokesman for Billy Graham, who actually signed his ad, said that it did not mention any candidate or political party. Hmm.

On Sunday, November 4—two days before the election—this very expensive full-page ad appeared in the Joplin Globe:

In the corner it says, “Paid Advertisement By The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,” and it is obvious the ad, which appeared in numerous publications, was a call to vote for Romney-Ryan and the Republican Party.

But the first thing I thought about when I saw that ad was how much money my late mother donated to Billy Graham and how disappointed she, as a life-long Democrat, would be to see what Graham had done.

I also thought about something else. When I was a kid, several of Billy Graham’s books were in the house, including a book that scared me to death, “World Aflame.” If nothing else, it was the cover that frightened me:

I was seven years old when that book came out. The earth engulfed in flames, and the threat of eternal damnation awaiting those who didn’t surrender to Jesus, tends to make a kid a little fearful, the kind of fear that never quite disappears, no matter how old one gets or how far one gets from the source.

In any case, the basis of Graham’s pro-Romney, pro-Republican political ad, and his ministry in general, is the kind of fear I felt profoundly as a kid, when I understood what that book was about. The line in the political ad about it being “vitally important” that “we” vote for “candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel” is telling.

In “World Aflame,” Graham wrote:

The Bible teaches that God is indeed a God of judgment, wrath, and anger.

And he speculated in the book that God will ultimately use “the elemental and creative form of fire” to destroy this earth and “bring into being” a new one, “a fire of judgment upon the wicked world.” He continued:

I believe the earth will be consumed by fire, not only because God said it, but because science has created weapons that can do it.

Consumed by fire. That’s the price to be paid for not following biblical principles, for not supporting the nation of Israel, which folks like Graham believe is the key to the End Times.

Consumed by fire. Presumably, that’s the price to be paid for not supporting Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and the Republicans. What else can “vitally important” mean in the context of Billy Graham’s consumed-by-fire ministry, the same ministry that paid for that ad?

I mention all that to make the point that some of the people who would be moved by a Billy Graham ad, moved by a theological appeal to vote for Republicans, moved by a Bible-based fear, see themselves as living in an entirely different country than the one I live in. These folks were genuinely shocked that Barack Obama won a second term. They, like Mitt Romney himself, honestly could not believe it. Why didn’t the Bible-based fear work this time?

What kind of country is this? they asked. What happened to our America? The last line in Graham’s ad was this:

Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.

Translation: If you don’t vote for Republicans then “one nation under God” is in jeopardy.

Yes, in jeopardy. And that leads me to the second story that came out today:

Just a week after President Barack Obama was re-elected, a petition by Texans for the right to secede from the rest of the country has garnered some 64,000 signatures, many more than the 25,000 signature threshold needed to get a response from the Obama administration.

The petition was made on the government’s “We the People” petitioning web site, along with secession petitions from at least 18 other states.

As I write, Texas now has more than 72,000 signatures. Locally, the Missouri secession petition has over 10,000 signatures. Oklahoma has over 11,000, Arkansas has almost 15,000, and Kansas is way behind at around 3,000.

So, what happened to “one nation under God“? These folks, many of whom I can safely assume are conservative Christians, don’t have a problem with the “under God” part of it, just the “one nation” part, particularly if they don’t get their way in a “vitally important” election, particularly if the nation doesn’t embrace the Republican Party.

Perhaps it is that Billy Graham and other Christian extremists, who claim to want us to be “one nation,” mean that we can only be so under their conception of God, which is a very Republican one. Otherwise, some of them want to take their states, and presumably their God, and go their own way.

Thus it is that those groups that are asking the government to investigate Graham and the Catholic bishops for their partisan advocacy are exactly right. If religious zealots want to put the fear of a Republicanized God into voters, and argue for one nation under that God, then the rest of us shouldn’t have to pay for it.

_______________________

By the way, a counter-petition has been offered against the secessionists, one that suggests we should,

Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America.

So far, it has only about 2,400 votes.

The New And Republican-Approved Jesus

Most of you know that I am a former evangelical Christian. But I still retain an interest in my former faith, particularly as I observe how it has been co-opted and corrupted by the Republican Party.

During this campaign season, conservative Christians have, via a special dispensation from their deity, amended the ninth commandment to read:

Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor, unless your neighbor is The Scary Negro In The White’s House.

With that dispensation, evangelicals are free to become full-fledged Mittenites, who, in order to rid the country of the only leadership it has known the past four years, can lie with impunity about Barack Obama, all in the name of God.

This new theological get-out-of-hell-free card is good for claiming the President is a Kenyan, a socialist who hates America, or, Allah forbid, a Muslim. It’s good for bad-mouthing the poor, the sick, and the elderly, all of those crippled by government dependence, as we discovered in that heartfelt “47%” speech.

And it’s especially good for those on the front lines of the Republican Party’s prosecution of its War on Women. Now that Billy Graham and the right-wing church have chosen to rock and roll in his Mormon bedchamber, Mitt Romney has his conservative Christian credentials in order and can lead the war.

He is free to rob women of their humanity, as he seeks to undermine their ability to make their own reproductive decisions, and as he endorses U.S. Senate candidates who would use big-government to force violated women to bear the children of their tormentors.

If the Romney-Ryan partnership is successful, if those they endorse make it to the Senate, women may long for the days of government-ordered vaginal probing, which when a Romney-influenced Supreme Court is finished, may seem like the good old days of Republican moderation.

Taking full advantage of GOP Jesus turning his Cayman-tanned face away from all that war-time prevarication going on out there, Christians, funded by the Romney campaign, have been engaging in last-minute lies like those found in the following script of a robocall that a voter in Fairfax, Virginia, received last Friday night:

Christians who are thinking about voting for Obama should remember what he said about people of faith: “They … cling to guns or religion.” And remember when Obama forced Christian organizations to provide insurance coverage that was contrary to their religious beliefs?

That’s the real Barack Obama. That’s the real threat to our religious freedom. Mitt Romney understands the importance of faith and family. That’s why so many leaders of the Christian community are supporting Romney.

They know we can’t underestimate the threat Barack Obama poses to our faith, our values, our freedom.

Yes, the real Barack Obama, as opposed to the one we have come to know, is quite the threat to faith, values, and freedom. Quite the threat alright. You can see it everywhere. Churches are being shut down, pastors being tossed in the hoosegow, priests being forced to seek adult entertainment with real adults. Yep, that Obama is the greatest enemy of faith we have ever seen.

In the mean time, the strange concoction of evangelicalism and Republicanism and Mormonism and Catholicism and anti-Obamanism means that conservative Christianity in America will never be the same. Conservative Bible-toters have traded in the Jesus who said that God had anointed him to “bring good news to the poor.” That Jesus didn’t look good standing next to Mitt Romney and Donald Trump.

And gone from their midst is the Jesus who condemned lying and slander and who talked about how hard it was for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. That Jesus, the one who told rich folks who desire a home with God to think about a camel going through a needle’s eye, is long gone.

Today’s evangelicals worship a Jesus who has an affection for vulture capitalism. They worship a Jesus who condones the slandering of Barack Obama, himself a Christian. They worship a Jesus who has endorsed a Republican candidate whose one discernible and consistent principle is that he will say anything, absolutely anything, to become president. And he, in the name of GOP Jesus, will bear false witness without so much as a pin-prick of conscience.

Time will tell whether this new and Republican-approved Jesus can drag Mitt Romney across the finish line. But we don’t have to wait to see what this crony-capitalist Jesus, this corrupt, Obama-hating savior, has done to evangelical and conservative Christianity in America.

As I said, it will never be the same.

Watch And Worry

Mainstream media have been obsessed with polling of the presidential race for the past nine months or so, and, at least on this last Sunday before the election, the polls they tout look good for the good guy.

I have mostly ignored the polling out of the belief that in the end, no matter what the polls showed in August or September, the race would be too close for comfort, at least for my comfort.

Nate Silver, the stats man from The New York Times, today estimated that Mr. Obama has an 85% chance of winning, taking 307 electoral votes. He explains:

Friday’s polling should make it easy to discern why Mr. Obama has the Electoral College advantage. There were 22 polls of swing states published Friday. Of these, Mr. Obama led in 19 polls, and two showed a tie. Mitt Romney led in just one of the surveys, a Mason-Dixon poll of Florida.

The pollmeisters at Huffington Post show the popular vote race at a virtual tie, Obama 47.7% and Romney 47.1%.  However, they published this portrait of the most recent polling in the battleground states:

HuffPo Pollster says:

Given the torrent of incoming data, the model now reports nearly complete certainty about Obama’s narrow leads in the most crucial tipping-point states of Iowa and Ohio, but that statistical confidence assumes that the final polls are collectively accurate and unbiased. When we factor in the historical potential for polling error, the probability of an Obama win falls to roughly 90 percent in Ohio and Iowa. An Obama win in those states is thus still very likely, but a 1-in-10 possibility still exists, given the typical historical pattern, that the polls could be wrong enough for Romney to win.

Four more states — New Hampshire, Colorado, Virginia and Florida — continue to show closer margins, with Obama holding a slight advantage in New Hampshire, Colorado and Virginia, while Romney has a slight edge in Florida. If the polling leaders were to carry each state where they currently lead by any margin, Obama would reach 303 electoral votes to 235 for Romney.

All of that is close to what Nate Silver has said and it sounds good for the President, but it is that fragment of doubt—10% to 15%—that will keep some of us from sleeping between now and Wednesday.

What obviously matters more than all the polling is the voting. And early voting—which some Republicans have been trying to slow down or stop—favors President Obama, but not as much as it did four years ago. According to the Associated Press, 27 million people have already voted across 34 states, and Democratic early voters are ahead of Republican ones in most battleground states.

Again, early voting represents some good news for Democrats, but not anywhere near decisive. Perhaps a clearer—or muddier—picture will emerge on Monday, as the final national polls are released by big-time news organizations.

But it is likely that those of us who care a great deal about this presidential election will find some reason to worry over what those final polls show, no matter what it is. I know I am one who would find reason to fret even if the much-trusted Nate Silver came out tomorrow night and said Obama had a 99% chance of winning.

Worry, worry, worry from now until the agonizing end is all there is left to do.

Mark Cuban And The “Democratic” Romney

Dawn Sticklen, a new contributor in the comment section, sent this in several days ago:

Did any of you have an opportunity to read Mark Cuban’s post yesterday in HuffPost? I think you might find it both interesting and enlightening. He gives a very good comparison of business related practices in government situations. Here is the link:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-cuban/romney-election-2012_b_2020584.html.

My response:

Dawn,

Wow! Thanks for turning me on to that “ironic” Mark Cuban piece.

I really loved his discussion of the benefit to businesses provided by ObamneyCare, in terms of the relative “certainty” related to health care costs and benefits it provides.

And his advice to a “Democratic” Mittens, that he should be touting his investment savvy in terms of what he could do with all that “DIRT CHEAP” money from China, especially investing it in “American companies,” was right on:

[DEMOCRATIC ROMNEY:] No one knows how to get a return on capital better than I do. I’m great at it. Look at my history…We need to invest in new technologies. We need to invest in research and development. We need to invest in new medicines and health care options. Now, some people might say that it will be very difficult to pick winners and losers and they are right. It will be very difficult. There will be losers. More importantly there will be winners. Winning investments will create jobs. Winning investments will create new technologies and medicines that improve the standard of living for all of us and does so at a lower cost. We won’t compete with private investment, we will complement it.

How commonsensical is that? It is precisely what President Obama has been saying for at least four years.

But my favorite part of the piece was this, which Cuban put in the mouth, again, of a Democratic Romney:

My Republican friends on the other hand, believe that if you reduce tax rates, large corporations hoarding cash will miraculously bring that cash back to the U.S. and invest and hire. Trust me. I know investment. That won’t do it. They can borrow money so cheaply there is no reason to bring it home and it certainly won’t lead to jobs. If they had something to invest in that would generate a return, they would. They haven’t.

Again, they won’t invest in America. I will.

As a long-time investor, I have never turned down an investment because of tax rates. I was just as successful investing when capital gains were much higher. I was just as successful investing when individual tax rates were much higher. No smart investor turns down a good deal because of tax rates. I always remind people you only pay taxes on profits. And if you make more than $1 million in profits, whether through capital gains or ordinary income, you should pay more taxes.

As I said, wow. Thanks for calling my attention to that excellent article.

Duane

Obama Doesn’t Have A White Problem, Whites Have An Obama Problem

Weeks ago, while a group of us were out registering voters on behalf of Claire McCaskill and Barack Obama, I knocked on a door in a low-income housing complex here in Joplin.

A young woman greeted me. There was the noise of a little one in the background, and I heard the voice of a young man, presumably the woman’s husband or boyfriend. I told her why I was there and she said she wasn’t interested. I turned away and walked down the stairs and on to the next apartment.

Through their open patio door someone heard the man say:

You should have told ‘em we ain’t votin’ for no damn nigger.

That wasn’t the first time I ran into such bigotry while doing the little work I did on the 2008 and the current campaign.

I pass on that story not because I think it is typical of the opposition to Barack Obama this campaign season or last. I pass it on because it is part of that opposition, part of the equation of the 2008 election, part of the reason the 2010 midterm election brought too many bigoted extremists into power.

And it is part of why President Obama is having a hard time convincing a majority of voters that he is a better choice this time than a man who has constantly lied during this campaign, who has misrepresented both himself and Mr. Obama, who has abandoned all pretense of honesty.

And the bigotry we found that evening in Joplin is a large part of why there still is a large number of Americans, mostly Republicans, who don’t believe Obama is either Christian or American, who don’t believe he sees or loves America the way they think—they imagine—they do.

How big a part does such bigotry, such racism play? Beats me. I just don’t know. But it’s a part. It needs to be accounted for. It needs to be addressed. As does more mild forms of race-based opposition to the President.

An AP poll released on Monday showed a depressing result:

In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.

And Hispanics don’t escape the withering eye of whites either:

In an AP survey done in 2011, 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57 percent in the implicit test.

All of that has real electoral consequences:

Overall, the survey found that by virtue of racial prejudice, Obama could lose 5 percentage points off his share of the popular vote in his Nov. 6 contest against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But Obama also stands to benefit from a 3 percentage point gain due to pro-black sentiment, researchers said. Overall, that means an estimated net loss of 2 percentage points due to anti-black attitudes.

In an election as close as this one, 2 percentage points may as well be 20.

Before I go on, I want to note another finding by the AP study, a finding that should disturb those of us who believe we are on the side of the angels:

The poll finds that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans. Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent).

So we Democrats have some work to do. No, given we are Democrats, we have a lot of work to do.

As I write this, the latest Obama-Romney pre-election polling confirms the disturbing racial polarization extant in America. While it’s not surprising that a Democrat will, once again, not receive the support of a majority of white voters—none has since Lyndon Johnson in 1964—it is, at least to me, a little surprising that, after Mr. Obama’s rather robust showing among white voters in 2008 (43%, two points more than John Kerry in 2004), a Washington Post/ABC poll now indicates that only 38% of whites support Obama, while 59% support Romney.

One has to ask why Obama has, according to the latest polling, kept or increased his numbers among blacks (95% in 2008) and Latinos (66% in 2008), who have been hurt more than whites by the sluggish recovery from the Great Recession, but lost a lot a ground among whites. Is it mere identity? Or is it that Romney, mostly through his surrogates, has subtly (and not so subtly) exploited white angst and turned off non-white voters? Come on. You know the answer to that.

But one seriously has to ask why it is that Obama performs so poorly among working class whites. Obama lost them by 18 points last time, and in 2010, House Democrats collectively lost working class whites by 30 points to the House Republicans, according to NPR. That reportedly was the largest margin since, uh, 1854, the year the Republican Party came into being. What is it among this group of folks that turns them off from Democrats, even white ones?

And Obama isn’t doing well particularly among white men, as this headline a few days ago from CBS demonstrates:

In 2008, white men represented about 36% of the electorate, according to exit polling, and John McCain got a whopping 57% of their vote, Obama only 41%. But Obama’s 41% was the best showing by a Democrat since 1976. Today, polling shows that Romney is leading by an unbelievable 65-32 margin. What accounts for that?

As I have said for more than three years now, what accounts for some of that, and what accounts for some of the lack of white support for Obama generally, is white angst, the feeling that the culture, dominated from the beginning by white faces, is slipping away.

Oh, don’t take my word for it. Or don’t take the word of a xenophobic Republican like Pat Buchanan, who has written extensively on the subject. Try the much respected Michael Barone, a conservative who worked for years at US News and World Report and who now, among other things, appears on Fox as a commentator and holds a job as senior political analyst for the right-wing rag Washington Examiner.

Barone wrote on National Review Online on Monday:

Why are whites more partisan than just about ever before? Maybe because they’re constantly being told that they’re headed toward becoming a minority of the electorate. Self-conscious minorities tend to vote more cohesively. Or because they’re the objects of racial discrimination in, among other things, university admissions, as documented by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor in their recent book, Mismatch. Republicans are often told that their party is headed toward minority status because of the rising numbers of heavily Democratic non-whites.

There it is, all you lurking conservatives who don’t want to admit it. Michael Barone, one of your own, defined the angst among white people and gave us a reason why that angst translates into votes for Romney, for perhaps the last great white hope.

All of which brings me back to that bigot in Joplin who called Barack Obama a racist name, knowing that we could hear him. Is he one of those white people who is experiencing the white angst I have written so much about these past three years? No, I don’t think so. He’s just a run-of-the-mill racist, a punk kid with a mind full of intolerance, a head full of hate. He would be an Obama-hater under any circumstances, even without the threat of losing cultural control.

But he is part of the problem, part of why there is such racial division in America. Unfortunately, the larger part of the problem, to a degree  not easily measurable, are those white folks who would never allow a stranger hear them call the President a nigger, or entertain in public the idea that their opposition is based on what Barack Obama represents.

But in the privacy of the voting booth, these white folks would cast a vote against him out of an unspoken, often unacknowledged, racial anxiety, but call it something else, something less offensive, something less revealing.

Whether President Obama wins another term, or whether Mitt Romney’s cynical strategy of secrecy, duplicity, mendacity, and subtle appeals to white anxiety is successful, the country will soon change. Demographics will see to that. America is browning, my friends.

And then Michael Barone’s excuse for white partisanship, “Maybe because they’re constantly being told that they’re headed toward becoming a minority of the electorate,” will be a reality.

“Stupid FEMA Trucks”

By now we have all been reminded, through various statements he has made in the past, how Mitt Romney feels about FEMA and firemen and policemen, about those faces of government that folks in a heap of storm trouble rely on, in this complex society, whether the need is rescue, recovery, or rebuild.

We know all about that in Joplin. More than a dozen federal agencies were on the ground here after our tornado, and in our community of about 50,000 folks, more than 800 FEMA employees were doing their thing here, so much so that people normally a little suspicious of government, like the president of our Chamber of Commerce, said,

FEMA was an absolute champion.

Millions upon millions of dollars from American taxpayers have flowed into this area for all kinds of purposes, from housing to debris removal. President Obama has been here two times, pledging each time to keep government’s commitment to partner with private efforts to get Joplin back on its feet.

As we see the horrendous pictures on television of the destruction brought on by a much larger storm than the devastating Joplin tornado, as we see government workers of all kinds on the ground doing what it is they do in the wake of such destruction, we should remind ourselves of how strong is the anti-government spirit that animated Mitt Romney to say “we cannot afford” to do the kinds of things that those government workers, firemen, cops, and, yes, FEMA folks, are now doing all over the Sandy-ravaged Northeast.

Or animated Romney to say, in the context of FEMA and disaster relief:

Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. 

That anti-government spirit is strong, indeed. Last year, the popular conservative, Glenn Beck, announced that he was going to bring ordinary people, including religious leaders, together to, as one report put it,

step up and help the less fortunate by providing goods and services for the poor and for people who are faced with a disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the Joplin, Missouri tornado.

“God forbid if there is a Joplin or Katrina,” Beck said. “If we have done our job so well that when the stupid FEMA trucks come rolling down, we say ‘Man, turn around, push off,’ that’s when Man will be free again.”

Stupid FEMA trucks.” I wonder how many Glenn Beck, anti-government conservatives in the path of Hurricane Sandy feel that way about FEMA trucks today?

Locally, here where FEMA and the federal government has played such a crucial role in our post-tornado recovery, a local blogger, a man who sometimes writes the in-house editorials for the Joplin Globe , a man who is often a guest Globe columnist, wrote earlier this year:

America was great because of the lack of government controls, by and large. I want to go “back” to that principle and simply allow government to do the minimum needed to prevent anarchy. Otherwise let the “people” sort it all out on their own. I don’t care how “complex” society becomes. The Constitution is so basic to any society that it will work fine regardless of new technology.

As for “needs” of people, That has NEVER changed in history. And by and large the Constitution ignores those needs other than defense against foreign “needs”.

Give people freedom and they will by and large as a nation do fine.

This writer, again a man with a voice on the Joplin Globe’s editorial page, including authoring some of its own editorials, said he wants to go back to a time when there was just enough government to “prevent anarchy.” Let people “sort it all out on their own,” he said, no matter how “‘complex’ society becomes.”

Hmm.

Give people freedom,” this writer says, and “by and large” they’ll do just fine.

By and large. I wonder, as I see folks all over the Northeast in shock at what has happened to them, what has happened to their communities, if they are by and large doing just fine. I wonder if all those storm victims, including conservative ones, want to sort it all out on their own. I wonder if those victims long for a shoestring government just big enough to prevent anarchy.

Yes, I wonder.

After The Storm Is Over

In my reaction to the Joplin Globe’s why-should-the-rich-pay-more reasoning in its editorial endorsing Mitt Romney, I wrote:

…let’s just let the moochers and their mooching kids in Romney’s “47%” starve to death here in our lovely Joplin community, a community propped up by a lot of government money after the tornado paid us a visit. Now that houses and businesses are going up all over the place, now that there is plenty of money floating around this FEMA-blessed area, to hell with everyone else.

I had forgotten, when I wrote that, that Mittens had something to day during a CNN Republican primary debate about the kind of federal disaster relief that benefited folks here in Joplin:

KING: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. 

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though? 

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

The Joplin Globe, a paper that has spent the last 17 months chronicling the post-tornado recovery of Joplin, including stories on the large role FEMA and the federal government played in that recovery, endorsed a man who said that “we cannot afford to do those things” these days because neither he nor the Joplin Globe believe that the rich should pay a little more in taxes.

It will be interesting to see how many Republicans, those in the path of Hurricane Sandy, will refuse the help of the federal government after the storm is over.

I didn’t see any refusal of federal help around here in this very red Republican town after the tornado tore through the middle of it, and I don’t expect Governor Christie or any other Republican official or any other Republican voter will say after their storm subsides, “No, we cannot afford to do those things.”

 

Speaking Of Newspaper Endorsements…

I’m sure you all have heard about the Des Moines Register‘s turncoat endorsement of Mitt Romney the other day. It made all the news, especially all the right-wing news, since it was the first time since 1972 that the paper endorsed a Republican.

The Des Moines Register’s reasoning in its endorsement was almost as dumb as the Joplin Globe’s reasoning in its endorsement of Romney. Here is just one example:

Early in his administration, President Obama reached out to Republicans but was rebuffed. Since then, he has abandoned the effort, and the partisan divide has hardened. That has hampered not only the economy, but the entire country. We remain a nation of red states and blue states.

Get it? Republicans “rebuffed” President Obama (and it wasn’t just “early in his administration,” either, it was throughout his term) and it is Obama’s fault for not continuing to allow Republicans to rebuff him. Therefore, the hardening of the “partisan divide” is Obama’s fault and we should elect a Republican to be president.

Such a dazzlingly dopey deduction is exactly why Republicans set out to sabotage the Obama presidency in the first place. The figured they could count on fools like the Des Moines Register editorial writer(s) to make it Obama’s fault.

But besides that Iowa paper’s confused and confusing endorsement, perhaps you didn’t hear, I know I didn’t until today, that the Salt Lake Tribune, way out there in Mormon land, actually endorsed Barack Obama. Yep, the paper, which had endorsed Obama four years ago, stuck with him, despite what must have been some cultural—and subscriber—pressure to jump ship in favor of Mittens. (The same kind of pressure which no doubt wilted the resolve of the Joplin Globe to stay with the President.)

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Obama endorsement is a profile in courage for a paper that  operates in a “largely Mormon, Republican, business-friendly state,” as its editorial acknowledged, in a year where a Mormon, Republican, and business-friendly Mitt Romney is a candidate. That must have been a tough business decision, if not a tough political one.

Keeping in mind my criticism of the Joplin Globe’s Romney endorsement—”utter phoniness” and “complete incoherence“—I would like to share what the Salt Lake Tribune editorial said about a man the state knows well.

After praising Romney for rescuing the 2002 Olympics in Utah, the paper said:

In short, this is the Mitt Romney we knew, or thought we knew, as one of us.

Sadly, it is not the only Romney, as his campaign for the White House has made abundantly clear, first in his servile courtship of the tea party in order to win the nomination, and now as the party’s shape-shifting nominee. From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: “Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?”

The evidence suggests no clear answer, or at least one that would survive Romney’s next speech or sound bite. Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.

Romney is “shameless,” the Tribune said, when it comes to telling folks what they want to hear. In the Joplin Globe endorsement, that widely held view of Mitt Romney didn’t merit a mention. It didn’t come up. How can that be? How could our local paper not even at least acknowledge the one thing that is universally suspected about Romney—including by conservatives, who don’t trust him either—that he just might not do what he says he will do, whatever that is on a given day.

But more than that, Romney’s credibility problem, which the Joplin Globe editorial pretends doesn’t exist, is related to the one thing the paper insisted was its primary reason for endorsing Romney: his tax plan, which the Globe, despite all the contrary evidence, believes is legitimate. But it believes that on faith, not evidence. And given all the lies, given all the changes in Romney’s policies and his principles, how can anyone have faith in what Mitt Romney says?

The Salt Lake Tribune addresses the very issue that the Joplin Globe touted as its primary reason for endorsing Romney:

To claim, as Romney does, that he would offset his tax and spending cuts (except for billions more for the military) by doing away with tax deductions and exemptions is utterly meaningless without identifying which and how many would get the ax. Absent those specifics, his promise of a balanced budget simply does not pencil out.

You see, that kind of sound reasoning, as opposed to the silly, sophomoric shards of thought that characterized the Joplin Globe’s editorial endorsement, leads to the following conclusion:

In considering which candidate to endorse, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board had hoped that Romney would exhibit the same talents for organization, pragmatic problem solving and inspired leadership that he displayed here more than a decade ago. Instead, we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.

Therefore, our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first.

Mittens, Commander-In-Chief Material?

The video message below was produced by the Truman National Security Project, a group of progressives who believe “progressive values and national security go hand-in-hand.”

Imagine that.

Remember how Republicans tried to turn John Kerry, a Vietnam war hero, into a lying fraud? They claimed he was “unfit to serve” as commander-in-chief because all of the combat medals he was awarded were illegitimate. They also claimed that his criticism of the Vietnam War, after he came home, betrayed the trust of our troops and harmed those still in the field.

The swiftboating of John Kerry was one of the most despicable campaign tactics in the modern history of politics.* But it was based on the doggedly persistent but false meme that Democrats are national security weaklings, that we don’t care about the military, or we want to dismantle it and make America a third-rate power. Barack Obama, even though he gave the order that put Osama bin Laden’s body in the bellies of a thousand fishes, is still attacked for being weak on national security issues. Still.

The Truman Project is fighting back against that overarching false meme, which has helped win Republicans so many elections, that Democrats are somehow less interested in protecting the country, less patriotic, and Republicans are the real commander-in-chief types. The project’s mission, which is to recruit and train “a new generation of progressives across America to lead on national security,” is based on a simple premise:

Understanding national security is a litmus test for leadership.

Watch and see if Mittens passes that test:

_________________________

*Check out this article from the Huffington Post a few weeks ago to see how Republicans slandered Democratic candidate for Georgia State Representative, Scott Holcomb, a Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan veteran. His GOP opponent—who never served in the military—falsely accused him, in a campaign ad, of doing drugs while he was serving in the Army. Yep, Republicans love our troops, as long as they are Republican troops.

Joplin Globe Doubles Down On Dumb And Endorses Romney

Just as I suspected it would, the Joplin Globe has endorsed Mitt Romney.

Thus will end my association with the paper, as I will soon cancel my subscription.

I don’t do so lightly, as I have always known the paper’s Republican leanings, even when I was receiving beer money from the Globe for blogging. But the utter phoniness of the editorial endorsing Romney, along with its complete incoherence, compels me to react in the only rational way I know how: say goodbye to an old friend who has not only disappointed, but who has disappointed in a way that is irreparable.

And I can now spend the $15 a month on a digital subscription to The New York Times.

The Globe lost some subscribers four years ago for its daring endorsement of Barack Obama. It will lose me for its stunning lack of faith in its original endorsement. It is clear that Globe management was not prepared to make the mistake of endorsing the locally unpopular president, despite his two visits here and despite his administration’s enormous efforts to help Joplin recover from last year’s tornado. Instead, the paper has invented ridiculous reasons for endorsing Romney, including this one:

But in regard to the issue that is front and center for Americans — jobs and economic recovery — this nation remains stalled.

Stalled? Don’t the members of the editorial board read their own paper? Huh? The nation is not stalled. GDP is in fact growing and has been growing for 13 straight quarters. The quarter before Mr. Obama took office the economy was shrinking at a pace of almost minus 9 percent. MINUS BLEEPING NINE PERCENT. And during the first quarter of his presidency the economy was shrinking at a rate of  minus 5.3 percent, a situation he had absolutely nothing to do with, since he was still trying to find his way around the White’s House at that time.

The most recent GDP numbers indicate we are now growing at 2 percent, which is nothing to brag about, but:

given the utter hole we were in,

given the obstruction presented by the Republican Party in terms of filibustering Obama’s additional economic efforts to get us out of that hole,

given the fact that Republicans created the so-called “fiscal cliff” that has businesses worried about the rules of the game next year,

given the fact that, according to an article in the Globe itself, “slower global growth has cut demand for American exports,”

given the effect this year’s expansive drought had on agriculture inventories,

2 percent ain’t all that bad.

It’s certainly a helluva lot better than the minus 9 percent growth Obama inherited, from an administration that was acting according to the exact same philosophy that Mr. Romney, to the extent you can believe a goddamn word he says, plans to act on, should voters take the Globe’s advice and put him in the White’s House.

And other economic indicators are improving, including housing, which has been the main drag on the economy. The private sector has added more than 5 million jobs over the last 31 consecutive months of job growth. And if it weren’t for the shedding of state and local government jobs—which the President has tried to get Republicans in Congress to help stop—the overall job numbers would be even better.

But perhaps the most nauseating part of the Globe’s endorsement, besides completely ignoring Romney’s many, many lies and his penchant for secrecy, was this:

Obama’s mistake was that he favored short-term, targeted solutions.

Are you kidding me? Of course he favored short-term, targeted solutions. You bet he did. You know why? Because the goddamned economy was in the toilet. Millions of American jobs were being flushed into the abyss of Republican economics. That’s why he “favored short-term, targeted solutions.” And so did almost every other economist this side of Rush Limbaugh.

And so did the Joplin Globe in 2008.

As I noted, the paper endorsed Barack Obama four years ago. You know what the paper said then? Here’s what:

Following the market collapse and the recent Wall Street bailout, we believe that the nation needs a new economic plan.

Obama’s plan to provide tax cuts for middle-income Americans is a welcome one, as is his plan to eliminate capital-gains taxes for small businesses and provide cuts for businesses that create and keep jobs in the United States.

If tax cuts for middle-income Americans and tax cuts for businesses aren’t “short-term, targeted solutions,” then what the bleep is? The Globe was calling for, in 2008, short-term, targeted solutions that it now opposes. What hubris. What hypocrisy.

Obama did the things the Globe asked in 2008. He cut taxes for middle-income Americans. He also cut taxes, including capital-gains taxes, for small businesses. Here is a list of those tax cuts from Politifact:

From the Recovery Act, HIRE Acts, and Affordable Care Act:   

1. A new small business health care tax credit   
2. A new tax credit for hiring unemployed workers   
3. Bonus depreciation tax incentives to support new investment   
4. 75 percent exclusion of small business capital gains   
5. Expansion of limits on small business expensing   
6. Five-year carryback of net operating losses   
7. Reduction of the built-in gains holding period for small businesses from 10 to 7 years to allow small business greater flexibility in their investments   8. Temporary small business estimated tax payment relief to allow small businesses to keep needed cash on hand
   
From the Small Business Jobs Act:
   
9. Zero capital gains taxes on key investments in small businesses   
10. Raising the small business expensing to $500,000   
11. An extension of 50 percent bonus depreciation   
12. A new deduction for health care expenses for the self-employed   
13. Tax relief and simplification for cell phone deductions   
14. An increase in the deduction for entrepreneurs’ start-up expenses   
15. A five-year carryback of general business credits   
16. Limitations on penalties for errors in tax reporting that disproportionately affect small business   

From the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act:
   
17. 100 percent expensing

That’s an impressive small-business tax-cutting list, don’t you think? Yet, despite the Globe advocating for those things four short years ago, now suddenly the paper says, “long-range, core change is needed.” Yeah, that’s what a “stalled” America needs alright. Let’s austerity ourselves into prosperity. It’s working so well for the Europeans who have tried it.

The 2008 Globe endorsement of Obama also included this:

With the war in Iraq well into its fifth year, Obama has said that it is time for the Iraqi government to begin stepping up to take on financial responsibility for its country at a time when our country is spending billions of dollars (not to mention the human cost) each month in our efforts there.

And we agree that beginning a responsible drawdown of American forces will also require Iraq to begin taking more military control of its country, and allow our troops to place more emphasis on al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and bringing 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden to justice.

Needless to say, Obama ended the war in Iraq. It’s over. Done. Finished. Just like the Globe suggested was necessary. He also put “more emphasis on al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.” And about bringing that “9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden to justice,” perhaps the Globe editorial board hasn’t heard the goddamned news yet: The sonofabitch is bottom-feeding in the North Arabian Sea, thanks to a courageous SEAL Team Six and their Globe-endorsed Commander-in-Chief.

End the war in Iraq? Check. Put more emphasis on the bad guys in Afghanistan? Check. Bring bin Laden to justice? Check. Joplin Globe endorsement? Uh, well, no. All those checks and plenty more, yet President Obama is not worthy of another term says the Joplin Globe.

Moving on from the paper’s moving goal posts, the Globe additionally argues,

Romney won’t raise any new taxes to reduce the deficit. Period….It’s true that the nation’s wealthiest 2 percent — individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 — can pay more, but why should they?

Yeah, why should they? Let’s balance the budget by getting the money from the poor, the elderly, the disabled. Or maybe we could rob the piggy banks of the countless kids getting free or reduced price lunches here in Southwest Missouri.

Or let’s just let the moochers and their mooching kids in Romney’s “47%” starve to death here in our lovely Joplin community, a community propped up by a lot of government money after the tornado paid us a visit. Now that houses and businesses are going up all over the place, now that there is plenty of money floating around this FEMA-blessed area, to hell with everyone else.

Yeah, why should the rich pay more? Under Bill Clinton they were suffering mightily under those confiscatory 39.6 percent tax rates, weren’t they? God, how did they get by? How did they survive? And how did the economy create those 22 million jobs, given such a drain on those overburdened “job creators”?

The Globe continues:

Romney’s plan is to roll back individual income tax rates for all income groups by 20 percent, and cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent, while at the same time reducing personal and corporate deductions.

This gets us closer to the kind of overhaul that is needed.

Oh, Allah. Help me. How many times must this stuff be debunked? One can go all over the Internet and get various versions of the debunkery, so I won’t go into it here. Suffice it to say that the Globe repeats the Romney line that he will reduce personal and corporate deductions sufficiently to make his plan work. Oh, yeah? Which ones? Tell us, Joplin Globe. Tell us which tax deductions Romney will “reduce.”  He won’t tell us, so why don’t you? And if you can’t tell us, then you don’t know what the hell you are talking about by saying,

This gets us closer to the kind of overhaul that is needed.

Finally, I recently wrote a piece titled, “The Joplin Globe’s Dumbest Editorial Of All Time,” based on its assertion that Romney’s plan to cut the chump change used to fund public broadcasting was part of “a serious conversation about the proper role and reach of the federal government.” Boy, was I a little premature with that one. In its Romney-endorsing editorial, the Globe doubled-down on dumb with this remarkable ending passage:

When it comes to systemic problems, think Big Bird. Recent posturing over that “Sesame Street” character is telling.

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

The Obama campaign attacked Romney on that point.

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

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

Mitt Romney should be the next president.

Yes, Mitt Romney should be the next president because he courageously promised to save American taxpayers one dollar and thirty-five cents a year by cutting off funding for public broadcasting, even though he would have exactly no power to do so without a willing Congress. That is real courage, real commitment, real change.

Maybe he can go on from there and cut the federal subsidy for the goddamned Joplin airport. Next he can tackle those free lunches that the greedy freeloading kids around here eat at school. Then, after he is energized by such “serious” budget cutting, he can cut Medicaid, so Joplin’s poor and elderly can unceremoniously croak in our streets.

Yes, why should the rich, the Romneys of the world, pay more? When there are so many better alternatives?

Now, I can truly say, without fear of future contradiction, that I have indeed read the Joplin Globe’s dumbest editorial of all time.

Intrusive, Vagina-Probing, Have-The-Rapist’s-Baby-Or-Else Big Government

From HuffPo:

Notice the “at least” in the subheader. There could be more. And remember, too, that Romney and Ryan are just as extreme, when it comes to their preferences, even though Romney, but not Ryan, has tried to have it three or four or more ways on abortion.

Again, for the record, Romney’s real position, as ABC News reported in 2007 after a Republican debate:

“I would welcome a circumstance where there was such a consensus in this country that we said, we don’t want to have abortion in this country at all, period,” Romney said at the time. “That would be wonderful. I’d be delighted.”

Pressed CNN host Anderson Cooper, “The question is: Would you sign that bill?”

“Let me say it. I’d be delighted to sign that bill. But that’s not where we are,” Romney replied. “That’s not where America is today. Where America is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in that country, terrific.”

As for Paul Ryan, he said in an interview with WJHL in Roanoake, Virginia:

REPORTER JOSH SMITH: Our viewers would love know…specifically where you stand when it comes to rape, and when it comes to the issue of should it be legal for a woman to be able to get an abortion if she’s raped?

PAUL RYAN: I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that, the position that, the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.

These are radicals. These are reactionaries. These are, in fact, radical reactionaries. Democrats have to keep pounding this into Americans’ heads, not just American women’s heads. These folks mean it when they say they want to use government—intrusive, vagina-probing, have-the-rapist’s-baby-or-else big government—to eliminate all abortions. All of us have to tell our friends, our family, our co-workers, our neighbors, about what is happening. Then we have to keep reminding them.

Even 76% of non-candidate Republicans believe abortion should be legal in the case of rape, for God’s sake, which is why Romney has tried to hide his extremism by copping a relatively less radical, but still radical nonetheless, position summarized as “only legal in the case of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.”  In the context of what he have heard from the mouths of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, that sounds like a pro-choice liberal speaking. But it isn’t. It’s still a reactionary speaking, still a radical position to hold. And besides that. Romney is still—still!—supporting Mourdock.

Whether it is this year’s crop of Republican senate hopefuls, or whether it is Mitt Romney’s expressed delight in signing a potential law that would eliminate all abortions, or whether it is Paul Ryan’s strange claim that rape is, in terms of the abortion issue, just another “method of conception“—God, that’s offensive—the message that these extremists would radically change the cultural landscape for women in this country has to be broadcast far and wide and often.

These zealots aren’t kidding, and Americans need to be told that again and again and again.

No Bull

Douglas Brinkley is, among other things, a professor of history at Rice University in Houston. Besides particular events and eras in American history, he has written books about past presidents, about foreign policy, about war.

He recently interviewed President Obama for Rolling Stone magazine, and the quote heard most often from the piece so far is this one, as relayed by The Guardian:

Brinkley’s interview recorded a conversation between Obama and Eric Bates, the executive editor of Rolling Stone. Bates told Obama that his six-year-old daughter had a message for the president: “Tell him: you can do it.” Obama replied with a grin:

You know, kids have good instincts. They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell’.

Bullshitter. Bullshitter. Bullshitter. That’s all I’ve heard about the interview, except that in our too-polite media it is presented as “bulls****er.” How kind of the media to cover for Obama like that.

In any case, besides Obama’s stunningly accurate characterization of Romney’s shtick, Brinkley’s interview was full of other worthy quotes, and I mean quotes from the historian, Brinkley:

Barack Obama can no longer preach the bright 2008 certitudes of “Hope and Change.” He has a record to defend this time around. And, considering the lousy hand he was dealt by George W. Bush and an obstructionist Congress, his record of achievement, from universal health care to equal pay for women, is astonishingly solid.

Now, when is the last time you heard anyone in the media bidness refer to “an obstructionist Congress” ? Particularly in the context of Obama’s accomplishments? When one thinks about it, what the President has been able to accomplish has been remarkable, and remarkably progressive, given the times we live in.

Brinkley, the historian, continued:

Viewed through the lens of history, Obama represents a new type of 21st-century politician: the Progressive Firewall. Obama, simply put, is the curator-in-chief of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier and the Great Society. When he talks about continued subsidies for Big Bird or contraceptives for Sandra Fluke, he is the inheritor of the Progressive movement’s agenda, the last line of defense that prevents America’s hard-won social contract from being defunded into oblivion.

Since the time of Theodore Roosevelt, Brinkley asserted, “the federal government has aimed to improve the daily lives of average Americans.” TR fought “Big Money interests”; Woodrow Wilson created the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, and re-established the federal income tax; FDR brought the country the New Deal, Social Security, laws to protect workers and give them the right to bargain collectively, regulation of Wall Street, unemployment compensation and the FDIC, which brought confidence to depositors that their money was safe, even if banks weren’t.

But in between Wilson and FDR came “the GOP Big Three of Harding-Coolidge-Hoover,” who “made ‘business’ the business of America, once more allowing profiteers to flourish at the expense of the vulnerable.” It was the policies and resulting disaster from those three Republican presidents that FDR was elected to fix.

And it took him a while to do it. But he did it. And as Brinkley wrote,

The America we know and love today sprung directly from the New Deal.

Ever since the election of Ronald Reagan, what Brinkley calls the “Grand Reversal,” an assault on the New Deal  has been ongoing, even including to some degree Democrat Bill Clinton, who “survived two terms only by co-opting traditional GOP issues like welfare reform and balanced budgets.”

And Brinkley makes another essential point in anaylzing President Obama in terms of the historical trend to unravel “the America we know and love today” :

Paul Nitze, the foreign-policy guru of the Truman administration, once told me that the problem with historians like myself is that we’re always hunting for a cache of documents to analyze. What our ilk tends to forget, he chided, is that inaction is also policy. Under this criterion, Obama must also be judged by the things he won’t allow to happen on his watch: Wall Street thieving, Bush-style fiscal irresponsibility, a new war in the Middle East, the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the dismantling of Medicare into a voucher program – the list is long. The offense-driven, Yes-We-Can candidate of 2008 has become the No-You-Won’t defensive champion of 2012. Obama has less a grand plan to get America working than a NO TRESPASSING sign to prevent 100 years of progressive accomplishments from being swept away, courtesy of Team Romney, in a Katrina-like deluge of anti-regulatory measures.

That analysis might not appeal all that much to undecided voters who are apparently pathologically unable to make up their minds about this election, but it should damn well appeal to unenthusiastic liberals, unionists, and other Democrats who have been angry with Obama because, like FDR before him, he hasn’t been able to do everything he set out to do, or done things exactly the way various interest groups wish he would have done them.

When we cast our votes for the leader of this country, we are casting votes for someone with the instincts we most desire in a leader, with the instincts to not only do good things, but to protect the good that has been done. The one thing we know about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is that they both have very different instincts about what is good and what should be preserved.

Brinkley again:

If Obama wins re-election, his domestic agenda will be anchored around a guarantee to all Americans that civil rights, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, affordable health care, public education, clean air and water, and a woman’s right to choose will be protected, no matter how poorly the economy performs. Obama has grappled with two of the last puzzle pieces of the Progressive agenda – health care and gay rights – with success. If he is re-elected in November and makes his health care program permanent, it will take root in the history books as a seminal achievement. If he loses, Romney and Ryan will crush his initiatives without remorse.

If that isn’t enough to get Democrats to run not walk to the polls, then they—those who sit on the sidelines and allow Republicans to win, to govern, to destroy what we value as Democrats, as Americans—are a miserable lot.

Ronald Reagan’s National Security Adviser, George H. W. Bush’s Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs of Staff, George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, All Endorse President Obama

Colin Powell finally came out of the closet today:

Of course, what does a retired four-star general, who worked for three Republican presidents (and also served under Richard Nixon as a White House Fellow) , know about foreign policy and national security? Plenty. And he knows a lot about Mitt Romney, too:

The governor who was saying things at the debate on Monday night … was saying things that were quite different from what he said earlier. I’m not quite sure which Gov. Romney we would be getting with respect to foreign policy.

One day he has a certain strong view about staying in Afghanistan but then on Monday night he agrees with the withdrawal, same thing in Iraq. On almost every issue that was discussed on Monday night, Governor Romney agreed with the President with some nuances. But this is quite a different set of foreign policy views than he had earlier in the campaign. And my concern … is that sometimes I don’t sense that he has thought through these issues as thoroughly as he should have.

Think, Mitt, think,” he has said before.

I know the following colorful badges, medals, and ribbons don’t compare to, say, the ones Romney-endorsers Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity received for their service to the country, but damn they’re an impressive sight:

The Logic Of Republican Theology

On televisions across the state of Indiana you can see a new ad that features Mitt Romney endorsing Richard Mourdock for U.S. Senate.  Mittens says:

As senator, Richard will be the 51st vote to repeal and replace government-run health care. Richard will help stop the Reid-Pelosi agenda. There’s so much at stake, I hope you’ll join me in supporting Richard Mourdock for U.S. Senate.

You may remember that Mourdock, a teapartier’s teapartier, finished off Senator Richard Lugar in the Republican primary earlier this year. And now Republicans in Indiana have to live with this extremist, an extremist that an equally extreme Romney endorsed.

On Tuesday night,  Mourdock said this during a debate with his Democratic opponent:

I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have for, to have an abortion, is in that case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape. That it is something that God intended to happen.

Now, first of all, I want to address the “I struggled with it myself for a long time” comment. Richard Mourdock, from all accounts, is not a woman. He can’t “struggle” with anything related to the issue of rape and pregnancy. He can pretend to struggle with it, he can pretend to wring his hands over how difficult an issue it is, but he doesn’t have the slightest idea of what it would mean to be raped and then be forced—by the biggest of big government—to bear the rapist’s child.

It is a perverted mind that believes any man can genuinely speak to this issue, let alone “struggle” with it.

Then we have the issue of a rape-produced pregnancy being “something that God intended to happen.” I applaud Mourdock for following the logic of his fundamentalist views to their proper ends. At least he didn’t dodge what his Iron Age thinking compels him to conclude. If one thinks like Mourdock, the only consistent position he can take is, yes, the government should force women to bear all children conceived, even if they were conceived through violence, through a violation of their bodies.

Except that after the debate, in answering questions about his remarks above, Mourdock eventually betrayed the logic of his theology:

MOURDOCK: What I said was, in answering the question on my position of faith, I said that I believe that God creates life. I believe that as wholly and as fully as I can believe it, that God creates life.

QUESTIONER: And so even if that happens in a rape situation, you still firmly believe that to be true?

MOURDOCK: That God creates life? Absolutely. I mean, God is the only one that can create life.

QUESTIONER: You said, quote, I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen…

MOURDOCK: …that life would be created…

QUESTIONER: …that life specifically?

MOURDOCK: Yes. I think God creates every life.

QUESTIONER: That life was created because of rape. How can you…

MOURDOCK: …no, no, no…

QUESTIONER: …How can you support that?

MOURDOCK: No, no, no. God creates life. God creates life. We don’t make life, uh, you know, in machines. God creates life. It’s a simple fact. I mean, God creates life. Does God want people raped? Of course not.

QUESTIONER: But you believe that abortion should be outlawed even in cases of rape?

MOURDOCK: Yes, that’s correct.

QUESTIONER: Incest, too?

MOURDOCK: Yes. I’ve said that consistently…

At one point, Mourdock added:

Are you trying to suggest somehow that God preordained rape? No, I don’t think that. Anyone who would suggest that is just sick and twisted. No, that’s not even close to what I said. What I said is that God creates life.

Sick and twisted? Yes. It would be sick and twisted for someone to suggest that God preordained rape. But such a sick and twisted suggestion logically follows from a belief that God creates and thus necessarily “preordains” life. Even God can’t create something he hasn’t preordained, which is defined as “deciding or determining an outcome or course of action beforehand.”

Therefore, Mourdock’s theology, his firm belief that God creates and thus determines beforehand all life, has to logically lead him to believe that God also preordained the method through which he created that life. There simply isn’t any way around that, even if Mourdock, for political reasons, eventually backed away from that conclusion.

All of which demonstrates just what is wrong with the anti-choice position of zealots like Mourdock. If he were true to this theological beliefs, if he remained steadfast in defending them, he would say, yes, I don’t understand why, but since God creates life, and since a life is sometimes created through the agency of rape, then God necessarily preordains rape.

It is that simple.

And for all you women out there, and for all you men who have sisters, wives, or daughters, if you believe that women’s bodies are nothing more than vehicles for God to act out his indiscriminate life-giving aims, if you believe women’s bodies are a fit subject for neanderthalic men like Richard Mourdock to wage theological and philosophical “struggles” over, then go right ahead and vote for Mourdock and his dreadful but logical conclusions.

And then hope that God won’t choose you or a woman in your life to “create life” in some horrific way.

And while you are at it, you can also vote for Mourdock’s endorser, Mitt Romney, who said in a debate in 2007 that he would “be delighted to sign” a bill “banning all abortions.” Here’s the context of that remark, as provided by ABC News:

“I would welcome a circumstance where there was such a consensus in this country that we said, we don’t want to have abortion in this country at all, period,” Romney said at the time. “That would be wonderful. I’d be delighted.”

Pressed CNN host Anderson Cooper, “The question is: Would you sign that bill?”

“Let me say it. I’d be delighted to sign that bill. But that’s not where we are,” Romney replied. “That’s not where America is today. Where America is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in that country, terrific.”

Yeah, just terrific.

The national press has done a good job of ignoring the extremism of the Republican Party on the issue of abortion. I am convinced that not enough women, or men for that matter, understand what is at stake in this election, in terms of the reproductive and health care rights of women.

Finally, I want to end with something written about Mourdock and his remarks by Ross Kaminsky, a conservative who writes for the extremist, right-wing rag The American Spectator:

I think he’s just proven himself to be another person whose pro-life gut reactions trump what any intelligent person knows he should be saying in an election campaign — by which I do not mean to imply that he should say anything he doesn’t believe. He simply doesn’t need to say everything he does believe, especially when those things have essentially nothing to do with what the election — or the job he wants — is really about.

You see? Mourdock “doesn’t need to say everything he does believe.” He doesn’t need to reveal how extreme he is. Why? Kaminsky continues:

While his explanations make sense in the context of a religious belief, his comment was political suicide. He might still win his election, and I have to hope he does, but he’s just the latest example of why so many call the GOP the “stupid party.”

Sadly and disturbingly, Kaminsky doesn’t believe the GOP is the “stupid party” for believing such nonsense as Mourdock and Romney believe. No. He believes it is the stupid party for telling voters that they believe it.

And with the aid of a compliant, don’t-offend-the-conservatives press, a press that often glosses over such extremism, that stupid party may soon be running the entire country.

A Foreign Policy Debate About Ohio

I want to start out by saying, about last night’s debate and about the campaign in general, that we have never—never, absolutely never—seen a candidate like Mitt Romney.

It is amazing to me that President Obama was able to decisively—it wasn’t even close, folks, and the flash polls show it—win the debate, considering what he was up against. How do you debate Sybil? How do you debate someone with multiple personalities, any one of which might appear out of nowhere and then disappear, replaced by yet another? How do you conduct a debate with someone like that?

How do you even prepare for a debate with someone who can convincingly (but only for those low-information voters who don’t pay attention) pretend that whatever he has said prior to the debate he didn’t say? How do you debate someone so willing to abandon the neoconservative philosophy, dangerous to the core, that won him the Republican nomination?

Romnesia, indeed.

The Mitt Romney who spoke last night, the one who was sitting in that chair getting schooled by the real Commander-in-Chief, was not the tough-talking, warmongering cowboy we have seen on the campaign trail or the one endlessly and falsely criticizing the President’s policies on right-wing TV and radio.

Nope. The Romney who sat there last night actually agreed with just about everything President Obama has done abroad, despite the fact that conservatives, including Romney, have said time and again that the President was “in over his head.” They have said that he has had a disastrous foreign policy, messed everything up, made us weaker before our foreign friends and enemies, and thus made us less safe.

All that was washed away last night as Mitt Romney essentially endorsed President Obama’s handling of world affairs.  He agreed with the progress that has been made, agreed with the goals going forward, and tried to piggyback on the Commander-in-Chief’s sober, thoughtful approach. Romney was so much in accord with the President that it made some conservatives nervous. Glenn Beck sarcastically tweeted at a couple of points:

I am glad to know that mitt agrees with Obama so much. No, really. Why vote?…He is not hitting anywhere.  Is this to make him not scary?  He is scaring me.

Of course, it doesn’t take much to scare Glenn Beck, a little sanity will do the job, but his comment does show that the right-wing’s distrust of their champion is still alive and well.

But more important than Romney’s snuggling up with Obama’s handling of national security and foreign policy, was Mittens’ attempt to agree with the President’s decision to bail out GM and Chrysler. Because Ohio is such a critical battleground state, this part of the debate may actually turn out to have the biggest effect on the outcome of the election, and the President wouldn’t let Romney get away with his lie on this issue.

It came up during a discussion on China, and I will provide an extensive excerpt to show how rattled Romney was:

MR. ROMNEY:…I want a great relationship with China. China can be our partner. But — but that doesn’t mean they can just roll all over us and steal our jobs on an unfair basis.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Governor Romney’s right. You are familiar with jobs being shipped overseas, because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas. And, you know, that’s your right. I mean, that’s how our free market works.

But I’ve made a different bet on American workers. You know, if we had taken your advice, Governor Romney, about our auto industry, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China…

MR. ROMNEY: I just want to take one of those points. Again, attacking me is not talking about an agenda for getting more trade and opening up more jobs in this country. But the president mentioned the auto industry and that somehow I would be in favor of jobs being elsewhere. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars. And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry. My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks. It was President Bush that wrote the first checks. I disagree with that. I said they need — these companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy, and in that process they can get government help and government guarantees, but they need to go through bankruptcy to get rid of excess cost and the debt burden that they’d — they’d built up.

And fortunately the president picked —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor Romney, that’s not what you said.

MR. ROMNEY: Fortunately, the president — you can take — you can take a look at the op-ed.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor, you did not —

MR. ROMNEY: You can take a look at the op-ed.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You did not say that you would provide, Governor, help.

MR. ROMNEY: You know, I’m — I’m still speaking. I said that we would provide guarantees and — and that was what was able to allow these companies to go through bankruptcy, to come out of bankruptcy. Under no circumstances would I do anything other than to help this industry get on its feet. And the idea that has been suggested that I would liquidate the industry — of course not. Of course not.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let’s check the record.

MR. ROMNEY: That’s the height of silliness.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let’s — let’s check the record.

MR. ROMNEY: I have never said I would — I would liquidate the industry. I want to keep the industry growing and thriving.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor, the people in Detroit don’t forget.

MR. ROMNEY: And — and that’s I have the kind of commitment to make sure that our industries in this country can compete and be successful. We in this country can compete successfully with anyone in the world. And we’re going to. We’re going to have to have a president, however, that doesn’t think that somehow the government investing in — in car companies like Tesla and — and Fisker, making electric battery cars — this is not research, Mr. President. These are the government investing in companies, investing in Solyndra. This is a company. This isn’t basic research. I — I want to invest in research. Research is great. Providing funding to universities and think tanks — great. But investing in companies? Absolutely not. That’s the wrong way to go.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor, the fact of the matter is —

MR. ROMNEY: I’m still speaking.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well — (chuckles) —

MR. ROMNEY: So I want to make sure that we make — we make America more competitive —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah.

MR. ROMNEY: — and that we do those things that make America the most attractive place in the world for entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses to grow. But your investing in companies doesn’t do that. In fact it makes it less likely for them to come here —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, Governor —

MR. ROMNEY: — because the private sector’s not going to invest in a — in a — in a solar company if —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m happy — I’m — I’m — I’m happy to respond —

MR. ROMNEY: — if you’re investing government money and someone else’s.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You’ve held the floor for a while. The — look, I think anybody out there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to, you know, airbrush history here. You were very clear that you would not provide government assistance to the U.S. auto companies even if they went through bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private marketplace. That wasn’t true. They would have gone through a—

MR. ROMNEY: You’re wrong. You’re wrong, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I — no, I am not wrong.

MR. ROMNEY: You’re wrong.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I am not wrong. And —

MR. ROMNEY: People can look it up. You’re right.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: People will look it up.

MR. ROMNEY: Good.

Of course Romney doesn’t really want folks to look it up. If people spent time looking up things he said, he’d be toast. But we’ll look it up in a minute. First, though, let’s look at what Romney did in this exchange.

Notice how he tried to steer the conversation away from the President’s criticism of his position on the auto bailout. He tried to bring up carmakers Tesla and Fisker and, for God’s sake, Solyndra, the former solar panel maker. That demonstrated Obama had struck a nerve.

But notice, too, that Romney admitted something very important related to the bailout of GM and Chrysler, and all those jobs people now have in Ohio because of that bailout:

Providing funding to universities and think tanks — great. But investing in companies? Absolutely not. That’s the wrong way to go.

Investing in companies is the wrong way to go, he said. Investing in companies like GM and Chrysler, then, was the wrong way to go. Nothing could be clearer than that, all you folks in Ohio who still have jobs in the auto industry. Romney thought that was “the wrong way to go.”

Now, let’s look up what President Obama wanted us to look up and what Romney hopes we won’t. Let’s look at that famous “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” editorial in The New York Times. The first two sentences of the piece went like this:

If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.

Hmm. Bailout = end of auto industry. He wrote that. And he wrote,

Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.

Ouch.

Romney tried to argue during last night’s debate that he “would provide guarantees” that would “allow these companies to go through bankruptcy, to come out of bankruptcy.”  Those guarantees, though, were for private money, for “post-bankruptcy financing,” as he said in the Times article. The problem, as everyone knew at the time, was that there was no post-bankruptcy, private financing available. No one wanted to invest a dime in the companies, which is why the government, if it wanted to save all those jobs, had to step in.

And that is why Romney is having a hard time convincing folks in Ohio and elsewhere, folks who have a paycheck today thanks to the government bailout of the auto industry, that they should trust him with their futures. He got it wrong when it counted most for them.

But Mitt Romney did get one thing right in that op-ed article in The New York Times, although not quite in the way he envisioned it. He said that unless things were done his way—the Romney way—regarding the automakers, “the federal government would…seal their fate with a bailout check.”

Yes, that’s right. The fate of a million, perhaps one and a half million, folks who have jobs today was sealed with that bailout check, a check that a President Romney would never have written.

You got that, Ohio?

“My Candidate Is Jesus Christ,” Said Billy Graham

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot

—”Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliott

y mom and dad would never, and I mean never, miss the broadcast of a Billy Graham Crusade—yes, that’s what he called his travelling evangelical show, despite the historical shame attached to that term—and many times, as a kid and as an adult, I listened to his warnings that Jesus was coming soon and folks had better get saved or else hell awaited.

The strains of “Just As I Am,” that beautifully written old hymn, still bounce around in my head, as does the sight of all those scared sinners ambling down to meet Jesus, or, more realistically, to meet the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Of course, my Democratic parents probably didn’t know much, if anything, about Billy Graham’s politics. He is said to have admitted to being a “lifelong Democrat,” but I have found exactly no evidence to back that up and much to contradict it.

But he did say in 1980:

The clergy ought to stay out of politics and let the laymen handle it…My candidate is Jesus Christ.

Well, by the time 2000 rolled around, Graham was flirting around with another candidate, George W. Bush, who didn’t much resemble Jesus in any way I could see, but nevertheless had Graham’s sly endorsement.

Now we hear that the old evangelical preacher has embraced another Republican candidate, one who apparently does resemble Jesus, at least GOP Jesus, the savior of Holy Vulture Capitalism, the kind who feasts on working-class carcasses.

It appears that Billy Graham has had a come-to-Mitt moment.

And his endorsement of Romney—his open-mouthed evangelical kiss—comes despite the fact that Billy Graham used to want us to believe that Mormons, just like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists, are not Christians:

Scrubbed away. Gone. Forgettaboutit. Nothing to see here.

Without any hesitation or ambiguity, when I was a conservative evangelical Christian, and studying to be a minister of that brand of gospel, I was taught that Mormonism was most definitely a cult, just as Billy Graham claimed. There simply wasn’t any question about it, and given the doctrines that conservative evangelicals hold, including those related to the nature of God, Jesus, and man, and the central role the Bible plays in defining Christianity for them, it is impossible to believe that one can be a practicing, true-believing Mormon and also be a Christian in the evangelical sense.

And if Mitt Romney is anything, we definitely know he is a practicing, true-believing Mormon.

But politics, particularly in the age of Obama, makes people do strange things, like betraying the rudiments of their rudimentary faith in order to make sure the White’s House is safe and secure once again, even if it means putting a cultist in charge. Strange things like scrubbing away a doctrinal dispute that was once so important that eternal salvation depended on knowing that Mormonism would lead you straight to hell because it was a cult.

All of this strange and disgusting stuff leaves me with one positive benefit. Should an enterprising evangelical ever come to my door again, offering me a chance to meet Jesus, or confront me on the street with a pamphlet or a Bible, telling me I will suffer eternal damnation unless I repent, I will ask one simple question:

Did you vote for Mitt Romney?

Yes? Then go straight to hell you pious fraud.

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