Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

“…democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.”

—Ronald Reagan, commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-Day

As news breaks that President Obama will meet today with the leaders of both parties in Congress to discuss the government-as-hostage crisis, it is extremely important to simplify what is going on. And although I’m not always the biggest fan of Thomas Friedman, columnist for The New York Times, he had something to say today (“Our Democracy Is At Stake”that bears repeating because it reduces the problem to its essence:

This time is different. What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule. President Obama must not give in to this hostage taking — not just because Obamacare is at stake, but because the future of how we govern ourselves is at stake.

Now, readers of this blog have read all that before, but, hey, this is a big-time Times columnist writing it, so it will reach many more minds, which is a good thing. And it’s a good thing that Friedman was very clear that “if we do not defend” the idea of majority rule, if we do not do something about the fact that a relatively small group of Republicans—in one-half of one-third of the government—believe they can, with impunity, “put a fiscal gun to the country’s head” and get their way, then our little American experiment with democracy, with self-government, is in deep trouble.

It’s pretty much that simple, when you think about it. For all the incessant banter on cable television, for all the words pecked out on keyboards all over the country, for all the late-night jokes on all the late-night comedy shows, it comes down to what Friedman said at the end of his column:

President Obama is not defending health care. He’s defending the health of our democracy. Every American who cherishes that should stand with him.

Yes, we should all stand with him, providing that, after his meeting with congressional leaders today, he is still standing tall.

Three Things Democrats Should Say To The Ideological Terrorists Among Us

It appears Democrats are ready to fight and not back down this time.

First Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called them “anarchists.” Then House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called them “legislative arsonists.” And on Saturday night President Obama, visibly energized to do battle with Republicans in Congress, said the following at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards Dinner:

You look at it right now — the other day, House Republicans voted to cut $40 billion in nutritional aid for struggling families at the same time as some of the same folks who took that vote are receiving subsidies themselves. So farm subsidies for folks at the top are okay; help feeding your child is somehow not.

I know the CBC, led by outstanding Chairwoman Marcia Fudge, fought hard to protect those programs that keep so many children from going hungry. And now we’re seeing an extreme faction of these folks convincing their leadership to threaten to shut down the government if we don’t shut down the Affordable Care Act. Some of them are actually willing to see the United States default on its obligations and plunge this country back into a painful recession if they can’t deny the basic security of health care to millions of Americans.

Now, I think — this is an interesting thing to ponder, that your top agenda is making sure 20 million people don’t have health insurance. And you’d be willing to shut down the government and potentially default for the first time in United States history because it bothers you so much that we’re actually going to make sure that everybody has affordable health care.

Let me say as clearly as I can: It is not going to happen. We have come too far. We’ve overcome far darker threats than those. We will not negotiate over whether or not America should keep its word and meet its obligations. We’re not going to allow anyone to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people just to make an ideological point. And those folks are going to get some health care in this country — we’ve been waiting 50 years for it.

Democrats in Washington should repeat President Obama’s three lines every time they are asked about the issue:

“It is not going to happen.”

“We will not negotiate over whether or not America should keep its word and meet its obligations.”

“We’re not going to allow anyone to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people just to make an ideological point.”

We’re about a week away from the end of the fiscal year, which is the first if-Democrats-don’t-give-them-what-they-want-Republicans-will-kill-the-hostage deadline. Soon after will come the debt ceiling deadline. We shall see whether Democrats do in fact negotiate with the hostage-takers in the Republican Party or finally decide to say enough is enough. I don’t believe Republican leadership is stupid enough to ultimately do what they are threatening to do, but I do believe they can move the debate much further to the right, and thus move the end result much further to the right, than Democrats should accept.

Don’t fall for it, Democrats. Don’t allow ideological terrorists—what else do you call people who, as President Obama said, want “to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people just to make an ideological point”?—to win even the smallest battle in the war they started in 2011. Just keep repeating:

“It is not going to happen.”

“We will not negotiate over whether or not America should keep its word and meet its obligations.”

“We’re not going to allow anyone to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people just to make an ideological point.”

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

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

Boehner said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reality Of American Exceptionalism

It didn’t take long, but President Obama made the case for American exceptionalism, and why that exceptionalism requires us to bear exceptional burdens, much to the chagrin of many liberals, who need a dose of reality, and many right-wingers, who have long severed ties with reality.

Here is the part of the President’s address to the nation, absent from any network or cable news boilerplate commentary, that should ring in the ears of doubters who don’t believe that congressional authorization of American action is wise:

My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security.  This has meant doing more than forging international agreements — it has meant enforcing them.  The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world is a better place because we have borne them. 

And so, to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly just.  To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor.  For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.

Indeed, I’d ask every member of Congress, and those of you watching at home tonight, to view those videos of the attack, and then ask:  What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?

Franklin Roosevelt once said, “Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideals and principles that we have cherished are challenged.”  Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used.

America is not the world’s policeman.  Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong.  But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.  That’s what makes America different.  That’s what makes us exceptional.  With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth. 

We Americans, I believe and have argued, represent something exceptional. There is an “essential truth” at stake here: America is the “anchor of global security,” like it or not. And “enforcing” international agreements is sometimes one of the burdens of being that anchor. And the world is a much better place because, historically, America has often borne the burden of enforcement.

This is no time to retreat, especially since American presidential resolve and the threat of American military power has apparently, though not yet decisively, caused Russia and Syria to seek refuge in compliance with international norms. Congress should see the reality before it and, when the time comes, authorize the President, within the reasonable limitations it sets, to pursue the burdens of moral leadership.

Sean Hannity: A Piece Of Shit Who Believes Putin And Assad Over Obama And Kerry

I write this just after I visited the Sean Hannity show on Monday night and watched the last of a segment featuring Pat Buchanan, an old champion of isolationist Republicans, and Democratic strategist Mark Hannah, who worked on the Kerry and Obama presidential campaigns.

I want to say now, while my emotions are hot and before discretion knocks the edges off my commentary, that if you didn’t think so before, Sean Hannity is a slimy slice of extraordinary foul excrement. Or, to put it in more gritty language: Sean Hannity is a greasy and stenchy piece of shit.

Got that? Sean Hannity, who has a ton of ignorant and bigoted and fact-ignoring viewers, who faithfully watch him do his Obama-hate dance each night (not to mention the gullible who listen to his radio show each day), is a worthless chunk of stool waste. An unpatriotic, un-American hunk of turd who, if there were a God of Justice overseeing the world, would be right now hopelessly swimming his way through the darkest, dankest stretch of sewer pipe in wealthy Centre Island, New York, having been flushed away by his outraged, God-fearing neighbors.

Why?

Because Hannity, sporting an American flag lapel pin, got in a love-bed with Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad, one a former Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB and the other a brutal dictator whose regime gassed women and children in their sleep, that’s why. Because Hannity hates President Obama and John Kerry so much that he would rather get down on his knees and pleasure god-awful authoritarians than acknowledge that Democrats have legitimacy as representatives of the American people and as human beings with a conscience.

Hannity was criticizing John Kerry’s statement that the attack on Syria would be “unbelievably small,” with “no boots on the ground,” and asked Mark Hannah this question:

HANNITY: What do you expect to accomplish? What’s the point?

HANNAH: Can you imagine the devastation that could be wrought against the Assad regime— 

HANNITY: No.

HANNAH : —in a couple of days—

HANNITY: No.

HANNAH: —of American fighters—

HANNITY: No.

HANNAH: —flying into Syria—

HANNITY: No.

HANNAH: —and dropping bombs, and, listen, this would  absolutely accomplish the mission that the President was very specific about, degrading the chemical weapons capacity, deterring…[crosstalk from Hannity and Buchanan]

Then after that revelation of Hannity’s skepticism of American military power, we had this revealing question from the Democrat:

HANNAH: You’re gonna believe Assad, Sean? You’re gonna believe Putin over the word of John Kerry?

HANNITY: Yes. 

Yes, he said that. A man who brags about his love for America, a man who pretends he is God’s gift to American patriotic punditry, said that he would take the word of a horrific dictator and a certified authoritarian over an American diplomat who, no matter what you think of the proposed policy, is trying to defend the integrity of American values.

Then soon followed this:

HANNITY: Mark just asked me who I believed more, Putin or Kerry. Vladimir Putin called Kerry a liar because Kerry was advancing the notion that there are far more moderates than people are seeing here. Now, I think he’s talking about the Free Syrian Army, and that’s the very same military leader that is saying that Israel is an “enemy country.” That doesn’t seem moderate to me. Who do you believe? I believe Putin.

BUCHANAN: First, first, I would not call the Secretary of State a liar, and I would defend the Secretary of State against that…

Thank God that even Pat Buchanan’s dislike for Democrats has limits, even if Sean Hannity’s hatred doesn’t. Let the everlasting record show that Sean Hannity said, “I believe Putin.” All of you Hannity fans out there, all of you who hang on his every word, all of you who nightly suck sweat from his butt crack with a short straw, let those words sink in.

Just a bit later, Sean was suggesting that if we want to be “serious,” we should attack Iran and their “nukes” because they are “the real threat to the world,” by which he means one country, the state of Israel. Buchanan, who famously is not a fan of Israel, would have none of that, saying that Congress should authorize any attack on Iran. Then Sean said Putin filled the “leadership gap” because Obama and Kerry could not make up their minds. Admirably, Mark Hannah followed with this:

HANNAH: You’re listening to Assad and you’re taking their word for it. You’re listening to Putin instead of your own president….you can broadcast this show from Moscow, Sean, how about that?

Yes, how about that? Sean Hannity one night reporting live from the Kremlin and another night reporting from the presidential palace of the trustworthy Bashar al-Assad, both of them now his newest Obama-hating heroes.

Piece of shit.

hannity buchanan and hannah

A Final Attempt At Making A Liberal-Progressive Case For The Rational Use Of Force Against Assad

One of my recent posts was a response to “Bill,” a commenter who had referred to me as a “supposed liberal” for “advocating war” by taking a position in support of President Obama’s desire to attack Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its use of chemical weapons.

I find it only fair to publish here Bill’s response to what I wrote, which demonstrates exactly how we liberals ought to treat each other when we disagree on an issue so untidy as what to do about Syria:

Ok, note to self: don’t do drive-by comments on the Erstwhile Conservative. :)

I regret my use of the word “supposed.” I have no reason to doubt your liberal credentials, and obviously the left is divided on this issue (as is the right). I happened to read the post while feeling a great deal of frustration at seeing so many Democrats teaming up with John McCain and his gang of neo-con warmongers. But still, it was wrong of me to use that word. My apologies.

My principal objection to your post was the American exceptionalism in it. I’m going to guess that if some right-wing warmonger referred to America as “the only true enforcer of international law, the keeper of the flame of a progressive world civilization” you’d find that disturbing. I certainly would.

I am strongly opposed to authorizing an attack on Syria. I’ll spare you my rationale, while acknowledging that principled people of all political stripes can reasonably disagree on this one.

peace

I found something in Bill’s response that I thought deserved some further attention, so I answered him this way:

Peace to you, too, Bill. I appreciate your clarification and the way you expressed it.

This is a difficult issue, and I understand your “frustration at seeing so many Democrats teaming up with John McCain and his gang of neo-con warmongers.” It is just as frustrating for me as I watch a lot of my liberal friends climb into political bed with Rand Paul and his gang of libertarian-conservatives. Let’s hope that no matter what happens, we liberals can live with ourselves in the morning, despite the beds we are sleeping in tonight.

If you will permit me to do so, I would like to respond at length to something you said, as I will attempt, likely for the last time, to present a liberal-progressive case for the rational use of military force against Assad. You wrote:

My principal objection to your post was the American exceptionalism in it. I’m going to guess that if some right-wing warmonger referred to America as “the only true enforcer of international law, the keeper of the flame of a progressive world civilization” you’d find that disturbing. I certainly would.

I confess I believe in American exceptionalism, except I don’t believe in it the way right-wing warmongers do. I would very much be disturbed by a right-winger saying what I said because I can’t imagine a single one of them saying it. I would think they had been smoking something dangerously potent. The point is, Bill, that those folks don’t believe in “progressive world civilization,” and they certainly don’t believe the United States has any business promoting it around the world.

America’s exceptionalism today is, among other things, found in our embrace of the principles of freedom and representative government and our unmistakable ability to defend those principles. But more than that, our exceptionalism is found in our willingness to use our power to defend those principles—which are really principles of progressive civilization—even if they are not directly threatened here at home. I say that even though I am acutely aware of how many times we have miserably and shamefully—and I mean miserably and shamefully—failed to live up to our principles in our past dealings with other nations.

I want to remind you that it was a liberal—Abraham Lincoln was a liberal in the context of his times—who believed it was vital to protect, even if it meant civil war, our nation and what it stood for, a nation that he said was “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” And he said those words at the dedication of a national cemetery in Gettysburg where somewhere around 50,000 soldiers from both sides died in three days of fighting.

In talking about those “brave men, living and dead” who “struggled” at Gettysburg and who fought hard for and “nobly advanced” the cause—the cause being that our “nation might live”—Lincoln noted that they left “unfinished work” (the war would go on another 17 months or so), namely to ensure,

that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Whether one agrees with how he proceeded, in Lincoln’s mind, what we stood for as a nation was worth preserving, even at the cost of using military force, even at the cost of many American lives. And if the way Lincoln defined what America stood for isn’t also a definition of American exceptionalism, then I don’t know what you might call it, and it was beautifully articulated by a man who would, if he were in office today, get called unflattering names by Tea Party Republicans.

I said all that to say this, Bill: Even if one doesn’t believe the Civil War was necessary, even if one believes it would have been better to simply keep the “peace” with rebellious Southerners, going to war was at least rational in the mind of Lincoln and obviously many others who gave their lives for the cause. By appealing to the “liberal” Lincoln, I am simply arguing that there is a place for the rational use of military power that a progressive can defend on liberal grounds.

And there are things worth defending, even if all the variables can’t be finally plugged neatly into the equation, even if the ending can’t be predicted with certainty. Lincoln didn’t know how the Civil War would unfold, and of course he didn’t know with certainty what the outcome of the war would be. But he thought it was worth the risk for the principles at stake and I think it is fair to argue, as I have done, that he acted rationally and with an eye toward a compelling vision of American exceptionalism.

Today we are talking about a limited American military engagement—emphatically not involving troops on the ground—to uphold a principle of international law against the use of chemical weapons, weapons that may one day be used against American troops somewhere. Outside of our own self-defense, if there ever was a strong case to be made for the rational use for good of our exceptional military power, it is now. In doing so, we will not only have attempted to enforce the international prohibition against the use of specific and horrific weapons, we will, to borrow from Lincoln, have “nobly advanced” the cause of what I have called a “progressive world civilization.”

Duane

Okay, We’re Embarrassed, But What About You?

Yep, some of us here in Missouri are embarrassed.

Yep, some of us here are ashamed of what happened at the Missouri State Fair.

Yep, some of us are at a loss to explain why a taxpayer-subsidized event in Sedalia featured a clown wearing an Obama mask facing a pissed-off bull, with a voice over the PA system saying,

As soon as this bull comes out, Obama, don’t you move. He’s going to getcha, getcha, getcha.

Yep, some of us are upset that the crowd reportedly cheered and clapped when a mysterious PA-amplified voice asked them if they wanted to see Obama run over by a bull.

And, yep, most embarrassing of all, some of us Missourians want to apologize for the actions of another clown who played with the lips on the Obama mask.

What a shame.

But shame on some of you folks in other states. Shame on some of you for doing what you are doing, much of which goes beyond the disturbing rodeo ridiculousness in Sedalia. Some of you have some explaining to do of your own, when it comes to disrespecting black folks in general and disrespecting our pigmented President of the United States in particular.

Let’s start with Iowa. You folks entertained over the weekend—as a distinguished guest of Christian conservatives—the Obama-is-not-a-citizen birther buffoon Donald Trump (and New Yorkers, what about you and your Trump? Are you embarrassed? Are you ashamed?).

Conservative Christian Iowans also welcomed Pastor Rafael Cruz, Ted’s daddy—who lives in Texas (which means you Texans have a helluva a lot of buncombe to apologize for, too) and who began brainwashing Ted at age four and now believes his senator-son is God’s choice to do great things like, say, run the country and/or Save The World.

This weekend the elder Cruz not only directly compared President Obama to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, he claimed the President has been attacking religion because “socialism requires that government becomes your God.” He explained:

They have to destroy all loyalties except loyalty to the government. That’s what’s behind homosexual marriage; it’s really more about the destruction of the traditional family than about exalting homosexuality because you need to destroy also loyalty to the family.

Pastor Cruz also bore false witness against the Affordable Care Act:

Our lives are under attack. We already saw what is happening with abortion. The same thing is happening at the other end with ObamaCare. ObamaCare is going to destroy the elderly by denying care, by even perhaps denying treatment of people [with] catastrophic sickness.

Apparently, in order to attract Tea Party church leaders, Jesus has lowered his standards for truth-telling.

In any case, you Texans out there have even more repentin’ to do:

GOP Congressman To Birther Constituent: House Republicans Have The Votes To Impeach Obama

This GOP legislator, Blake Farenthold from Corpus Christi—ironic Latin for “body of Christ”—gave his birther-crazed constituent a little practical advice:

What message do we send to America if we impeach Obama and he gets away with what he’s impeached for and he is found innocent? What then do we say is OK?

Indeed. What then do we say is OK?

And what do we say to black folks in North Carolina, whose reactionary governor signed into law one of the most blatant discourage-blacks-from-voting laws in the entire country, at least since Jim Crow was knee-high to a Klan-hopper? The Washington Post, in a straight-faced story, actually reported the right-wing explanation for the law this way:

Republicans lawmakers who backed the measure said it was meant to prevent voter fraud, which they allege is both rampant and undetected in North Carolina. 

“Rampant and undetected.” Only in the mysterious fog of conservative logic does it make sense to pass legislation to address a problem that is so widespread, so pervasive, that it is impossible to see with the mortal eye.

But God, who at least in his evangelical manifestation, has eyes that can see far beyond ours:

♦ He can see the hilarious humor in an Obama-masked Missouri rodeo clown, staring at a raging bull, with lips a-smackin’ and with crowds a-cheerin’.

♦ He can see the danger in a Castro-like Obama, who hates God and wants to replace him with government, who hates your family and wants to destroy old folks and the sick.

♦ He can see that Obama’s birth certificate, presented in every conceivable human form, is a forgery, and that this Kenyan deserves to be impeached for, among other things, a “felony.”

♦ And this evangelical-created deity can see that it is absolutely necessary to pass restrictive voter ID laws, shorten early voting times that black folks disproportionately used, twice, to cast votes for President Obama, and do it all, do all the dirty work, “without a ceremony and without journalists present.”

Let’s hope against hope that a more sober, a more user-friendly version of God can see that it isn’t just Missourians who should be mortified by all the Obama-hate on display, but all Americans who are witnessing the irrational disrespect shown for the nation’s first African-American president, and those of color who dare to vote for him.

Our (!!!!) House Of Representatives At Work

I am happy to pass on a report that the U.S. House of Representatives, as part of its ongoing tribute to Tea Party-induced paranoia, has momentarily stopped its futile attempts to repeal ObamaCare and taken on a more important task: prevent the government from getting enough bullets to kill us all, or at least those of us foolish enough to pick a gunfight with the feds.

Via The Hill:

The House late Wednesday voted to stop the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from entering into new contracts to buy millions of rounds of ammunition until DHS reports to Congress on the need for the ammo, and its cost.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) proposed an amendment to the DHS spending bill for 2014 that would require the report to Congress before it can pursue plans to buy 1.1 billion rounds of ammunition. Meadows said the speed bump is a necessary reaction to news of the huge purchase, which alarmed many Americans and prompted conservative groups to suspect that the government was stocking up on the rounds to fight citizens.

How ironic and delicious is the fact that House right-wingers are now afraid of the monstrosity—Homeland Security—that House right-wingers mostly created.

Congressman Meadows is one of those House right-wingers who believes that President Obama’s administration “has trampled on our Constitutional safeguards” and that “our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms is absolute.” Yep, alone among Americans, gun-toters have absolute rights.

Now, most readers of this blog, not being Obama-haters and not having the gun lust, may not know that across the country there has been a shortage of ammo. Some conspiracy-minded folks believe the government is stockpiling ammunition in order to have enough on hand to support Barack Obama, when he finally decides to take over the country by force—which could be any day now, given that Michelle has had it with hecklers.

Others, more sober-minded reactionaries, believe the President is hoarding the lead as part of an effort to make it more difficult for Ted Nugent to get rich selling the stuff.

The truth, though, is that fear and paranoia among gun freaks—much of it generated by Ted Nugent types—is mostly responsible for the shortage. Many of these fearful folks belong to a group of delusively vigilant Americans who call themselves “Oath Keepers.” Yes, that’s right. There are out there a lot of people who swear that when Big O decides to quit trampling on the Constitution and start trampling on people, they,

will not obey unconstitutional (and thus illegal) and immoral orders, such as orders to disarm the American people or to place them under martial law and deprive them of their ancient right to jury trial.

We Oath Keepers have drawn a line in the sand. We will not “just follow orders.”

Our motto is “Not on our watch!”

These folks are serious.  They call themselves “Guardians of the Republic” and claim they “are in a battle for the hearts and minds of our own troops.” And, of course, God must be on their side:

Oath Keepers is a non-partisan association of currently serving military, veterans, peace officers, and firefighters who will fulfill the oath we swore to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help us God.

It is unclear how God will help these folks defend the Constitution, should the President declare war on Americans. Because, after all, God also has an obligation to Obama, since, as the Bible declares, Obama wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for the Almighty:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Whoops! Something has to eventually give here. Either God has to admit He made a mistake in appointing Barack Obama as the Commander-in-Chief, or He has to abandon the Oath Keepers and leave them to the mercy of Obama, after the President fires up those black helicopters and starts shooting.

Since God hasn’t admitted to a mistake since the sixth chapter of Genesis, I’m betting that He won’t repent of appointing Obama as president and that Ted Nugent and the Oath Keepers will have to handle the upcoming battle without the benefit of fire and brimstone from on high.

In the mean time, the Tea Party-dominated House of Representatives will do all it can to save the country from its government, a government once, now laughingly, characterized as “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

What Do You See?

I recently had quite an exchange with, among others, a regular contributor to this blog, Herb Van Fleet. It began with my praising President Obama’s speech at Moorehouse College and proceeded to a discussion about the Trayvon Martin case. I suggest anyone interested in human perception, in how one person sees the world as compared to another, follow that very interesting (and ongoing) exchange. Make your own judgment as to who is being led by a false perception of events surrounding the Martin-Zimmerman case, and who is not.

All of this, however, got me thinking, as I came across some seemingly unrelated articles this weekend.

Look at this photo:

An image from a surveillance camera captured Trayvon Martin before his encounter with George Zimmerman.

Now, look at this photo:

rgiii photo

Finally, take a look at this, much more famous, picture:

All of us, for one reason or another, look at these pictures a little differently. We may think they tell us something important, possibly something essential, about the person pictured.

Let’s start with Obama. What does that photo tell us about him? Well, for some folks, it tells us a lot:

Barack Obama Was High on Cocaine During “The Missing Hours” of the Benghazi Attack Last September

This “story” was promoted, as Charles Pierce points out, by The Washington Examiner, which Pierce describes as “a minor satellite in the wing-nut universe.” But even so, the story is advanced not because it is true, but because it conforms to the way some small, but significant, percentage of the population sees our president. It’s what they see when they see that photo above, or some other similar photo, or, for some smaller number of people, any photo of him at all.

Now, let’s go back to the top photo. That’s Trayvon Martin, purchasing some items at a convenience store on February 26, 2012, just before he was to encounter George Zimmerman, who shot him dead a little later that night in Sanford, Florida.

Zimmerman, who lived in the gated community in which he first spotted Martin and who was apparently a neighborhood watch coordinator of some sort, didn’t know the 17-year-old kid. Thus, he didn’t know the kid was headed toward the home of his father’s fiancée, who also lived in the gated community.

In order to properly follow the upcoming trial involving George Zimmerman, it’s necessary to understand and not forget this essential fact: Zimmerman didn’t know a single thing about Trayvon Martin. Not a single thing. But what he did know is what he saw when he saw Trayvon Martin: “a suspicious guy” who “looks like he is up to no good or he is on drugs or something.” That’s what he first told police on the night he shot Martin.

Evolution endowed us with the ability to quickly identify things that could hurt us, like spiders and snakes. But not all spiders and snakes are out to get us. Much of that fear is irrational and a waste of mental energy. But having the ability to quickly perceive such danger obviously helped us survive and become the misjudging creatures we often are.

We are also conditioned to interpret the things we see.  Sometimes nurturing or experience teaches us to see things that may or may not be there in any particular future case. Some people look at that picture of Trayvon Martin at a convenience store and they see a kid about to do something bad. Others look at him and say it’s just another kid in a hoodie buying some Skittles and iced tea.

Perception matters, as a dead Trayvon Martina and a live George Zimmerman, who is on trial for second-degree murder, demonstrates. And it should matter to all of us that the way we perceive things on first glance, the initial judgments we make, have a high probability of error. Further, it should matter to us that part of our perception is influenced by our culture, by the way we were raised in this culture and by the way we have been treated within it. Thus, it helps us to become better thinkers, better people, if we remember these facts about ourselves and, just as important, about others.

Let’s now move to the second photo above. The one where the guy is posing before some empty boxes. Provided you haven’t seen this photo before, what do you see? What is it the image conjures up in your mind? What conclusions could you, would you, draw from this shot? Is he just a kid acting silly? Some kind of street thug? What?

It turns out, of course, that the kid in the photo (which he Tweeted) was a military brat who was born in Okinawa, Japan. He graduated from High School a semester early and graduated from college in three years, with a bachelors degree in political science and a 3.67 GPA. And he did all that, and more, while playing football for the Baylor University Bears in Waco, Texas. Oh, yeah, he won a Heisman Trophy and now is the talk of the town in Washington, D.C., as the much-loved quarterback of the Washington Redskins. The team signed him to a $21.1 million dollar four-year deal.

But I’ll bet, unless you knew who Robert Lee Griffin III was, you couldn’t have looked at the photo above and guessed one single thing on his thus-far impressive résumé of life. RG3, as he is now called, tweeted that photo in order to, as ESPN put it, show “thanks” to the fans who, because they adore him, bought many items on his and his soon-to-be-wife’s wedding registry.

Go back and look at that photo of RG3 again. And remember that, even though Rush Limbaugh thinks he can spot an angry liberal by just looking, none of us is well-equipped to make serious judgments upon first glance, or on the basis of a brief acquaintance with the facts.

Sure, there are times when a quick analysis is all you have to go on. It’s often better to let fear rule when it comes to spiders and snakes than make a lethal mistake, for instance. Modern life, though, is much different from the lives our ancient ancestors lived. We have the time to step back and take a more objective look, as we can in the case of President Obama and RG3. We have the time to examine our perceptions, to see why we are seeing what we see when we see it.

If George Zimmerman had done that on February 26, 2012, if he had taken a little more time to think about what he was actually seeing, if he had let the police do their jobs, he wouldn’t be awaiting trial in a Florida courtroom, worrying about going to prison.

And Trayvon Martin, whatever his faults were or weren’t as a 17-year-old kid, would still be alive.

Hole-In-One Diplomacy A Success Abroad, A Failure At Home

Okay, here’s a headline from a couple of weeks ago:

Saxby Chambliss gets hole-in-one golfing with Obama

Now, for me, the interesting thing about that story was not the “hole-in-one” but the “golfing with Obama.” The President, who has been encouraged by Washington-insider types to spend more time eating, drinking, and golfing with Republicans in Congress, apparently believes that if he hits the links with right-wingers like Georgia senator Saxby Chambliss, they will succumb to his charms and, at the very least, stop accusing him of secretly bedding down with jihadists who want to destroy us.

Fast forward from a couple weeks ago to yesterday, after President Obama gave that amazing speech on drones and the war on terrorism and Guantanamo and the inappropriateness of prosecuting reporters for doing their jobs:

Chambliss: President’s speech will be viewed by terrorists as a victory

That headline actually came from Senator Chambliss’ own website. His press release began:

The President’s speech today will be viewed by terrorists as a victory. 

The terrorists win! The terrorists win! Damn that Obama!

So much for whacking golf balls with the commander-in-chief.

Keep in mind that not only has President Obama sent Osama bin Laden deep-sea diving without a suit, but under his command we have pretty much decimated all of al Qaeda’s leadership and made would-be leaders of that group, to the extent one can all it a unified group, hide in fear that they will get the next drone-delivered enema or, to stay on topic, become a human hole-in-one.

Chambliss is all worried that closing a weird prison that we, who call ourselves the hope of the civilized world, operate in Cuba will give terrorists in Yemen and elsewhere a “victory.” That’s some victory. The United States actually trying to live up to its values is not what anyone, in Yemen or in Yonkers, should consider a victory for al Qaeda terrorists who are afraid to peek out their doors, lest they die.

In the mean time, I am sure that more golf outings and meals with Republicans are on the agenda for the President. But nothing, absolutely nothing, will change.

[Reuters/Reuters]

In Case You Didn’t Know, A “Lawless” President Obama Doesn’t Want To Kill You With Drones

More than a year ago I wrote about President Obama’s use of drones in the war against al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups around the world. I essentially endorsed, with some discomfort, the way the President was handling his job as commander-in-chief relative to his use of drones in general and the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al Awlaki in particular.

Mr. Obama’s incredibly thoughtful speech on Thursday, at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., confirmed by endorsement and took away much of the discomfort.

I don’t know how any fair-minded person, which excludes most of the conservatives you meet on the street, or on cable TV, these days, could have heard the President’s speech and not have come away with a great deal of comfort that he, and not John McCain or Mitt Romney, is our commander-in-chief.

I won’t analyze the entire speech, but I do want to point out a part that addresses what so many liberals and lefties—as well as the usual gaggle of libertarianish Republicans—have been harping on, with some increasing intensity, for quite a while:

For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen — with a drone or with a shotgun — without due process. Nor should any president deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.

But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens, and when neither the United States nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot, his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team.

That’s who Anwar Awlaki was. He was continuously trying to kill people. He helped oversee the 2010 plot to detonate explosive devices on two U.S.-bound cargo planes. He was involved in planning to blow up an airliner in 2009. When Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, went to Yemen in 2009, Awlaki hosted him, approved his suicide operation, helped him tape a martyrdom video to be shown after the attack, and his last instructions were to blow up the airplane when it was over American soil.

I would have detained and prosecuted Awlaki if we captured him before he carried out a plot. But we couldn’t. And as president, I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took him out.

I suggest a careful reading of the entire speech for anyone interested in how our modern military power should be applied these days. It is essentially the President “thinking out loud” about some of these topics, while being resolute on others. (He also handled a Code Pink protester fabulously, granting her the dignity of her position and weaving her into his speech at the end.)

Particularly interesting was his comments on the Authorized Use of Military Force, which was passed on September 14, 2001:

Now, all these issues remind us that the choices we make about war can impact, in sometimes unintended ways, the openness and freedom on which our way of life depends. And that is why I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing.

The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to an end. Core al-Qaida is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al-Qaida will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight or continue to grant presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.

So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine and ultimately repeal the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. It’s what our democracy demands.

Contrast this discussion with what the now-ridiculous columnist George Will wrote in yet another ridiculous column about President Obama’s “lawlessness.”

Will was discussing Obama’s controversial recess appointments (the Supreme Court will ultimately determine their constitutionality) of three members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and comparing that action, unbelievably, to the infamous racist act by George Wallace 50 years ago, “when he stood in the door of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama to prevent two young blacks from registering as students.”

If that comparison weren’t embarrassing enough, Will wasn’t finished:

Courts defeated Wallace’s lawlessness. Presumably the Supreme Court will defeat Obama’s by telling the NLRB that the D.C. court was right about recess appointments. By such judicial vigilance against the excesses of elected officials, democracy is disciplined and progressivism’s agenda — unchecked executive power — is understood to be unconstitutional.

I, being a progressive, wasn’t aware that progressivism’s agenda was “unchecked executive power.”  Geeze. I thought it was unchecked executive power that gave progressives and liberals the heebie jeebies. In any case, President Obama’s amazingly engrossing and thoughtful speech on Thursday, in which he wants Congress to take pack the “unbound powers” it has granted to the executive branch, makes a fool not only out of George Will, but all those who think this president is power mad.

Oklahoma Senator On Hurricane Sandy Relief: “That Was Totally Different”

Already this morning, I have heard Oklahoma’s Republican governor Mary Fallin express the need for and her appreciation of federal help related to the killer tornadoes that struck parts of her state the past two days. I heard the mayor of devastated Moore, Oklahoma, say this morning that he could see FEMA trucks already rolling into his town.

But that’s no thanks to Oklahoma’s two senators, both of whom are not just conservative Republicans, but the sort of conservative Republicans who are part of a contingent of right-wingers who seek to undermine faith in the federal government to do anything positive in our lives—except kill terrorists—and who seek to starve the federal government of needed funds to do things like help out during and after disasters.

Here’s how HuffPo put it today:

Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, both Republicans, are fiscal hawks who have repeatedly voted against funding disaster aid for other parts of the country. They also have opposed increased funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers federal disaster relief.

Yet despite the efforts of Inhofe and Coburn, the FEMA trucks will show up in Oklahoma throughout today and beyond. Those trucks are representatives of the American people, most of whom live far, far away from Moore or any other city affected by what is now four days worth of storm damage.

Inhofe did manage to ask for help of Another kind:

inhofe and moore tornado

Yeah, now that the storm has done its damage, Inhofe seeks prayer. Seems to me, the prayer should have come before the storm not after. Others had different, less polite, responses on Twitter:

@jiminhofe Prayers work, no need for FEMA!

@jiminhofe what is your view on FEMA and federal disaster relief, or is prayer enough?

@jiminhofe My prayers 4 the ppl, the sadness that u represent them. U voted against Sandy, voted to slash FEMA, what will u and Coburn do?

Hey @jiminhofe. Maybe we would have to do less praying if you’d be a human being when it comes to disaster aid. You’re disgraceful.

@jiminhofe you’re an idiot, and the people of Sandy don’t forget how you voted to NOT help them.

@jiminhofe Maybe you can tell your constituency to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. You know, because YOU voted AGAINST Sandy relief.

Inhofe was interviewed by Chris Jansing of MSNBC this morning about that Sandy relief vote:

JANSING: You know there were a number of people along the East Coast shore who weren’t happy about your vote on Hurricane Sandy. In fact you said the request for funding was a “slush fund.” With all due respect, is there money to help the people here in your home state rebuild?

INHOFE: Well, let’s look at that. That was totally different. They were getting things, for instance, that was supposed to be in New Jersey. They had things in the Virgin Islands, they were fixing roads there. They were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C.  Everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place. That won’t happen in Oklahoma.

I’ll leave you, my friends, to mull over that response, to let the phrase, “that was totally different,” sink in.

Meanwhile, Tom Coburn also expressed himself on Twitter:

coburn on moore tornado

Some of the responses to Coburn were also a bit impolite:

@TomCoburn & @jiminhofe voted NO to #SandyRelief http://bit.ly/10K1SOu  , will they offer more, now, than prayers to Okla ? #GopThugs

@AJK124 he’s calling for any funds for relief to be found in ‘cuts’ to other services first.

.@TomCoburn how dare you make them hunt and peck through the budget for disaster relief. They are STILL taking COVER you asshole

@TomCoburn You should not accept a paycheck issued by our govt until offsets in cuts are found, you worthless, anti American piece of shit

Those responses, as angry and harsh as some of them are, represent how a lot of folks feel during times like these. As another response related, it’s “@jiminhofe Karma.”  The truth is that some people get frustrated with right-wing Republicans bashing the federal government, then welcoming FEMA trucks and federal money into the state to help clean up the mess.

Some of us felt that way here in Joplin, when, almost two years ago to the day, a tornado not only killed 161 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, but it temporarily blew away the locals’ dislike for “big government,” as many took advantage of the generosity of the American people, as expressed through FEMA and other federal and state agencies.

Senator Inhofe, one of the chief GOP obstructionists in the Senate, has been particularly damaging, in terms of how people in his state (who have elected him with 57% of the vote the last three cycles) view not only the federal government, but President Obama—who received a mere 33% of the vote in 2012 from Oklahomans. Just two months ago, Inhoffe said about our President:

I was one of those who never believed he could be reelected. Sure he’s charming enough to elected the first time, but once people know that charm cannot overrule his performance in destroying this country, but yeah I guess it’s still working.

Yeah. A charming Obama is destroying the country. He’s not a citizen. He’s a tyrant using the IRS to get his enemies. He should be impeached over Benghazi. The federal government is perpetuating a global warming hoax so Obama can turn us into socialists. And he’s helping Muslims implement sharia law across the land. The Sandy Hook shootings were either a hoax or planned by authorities in order to take away gun rights. The government is either incompetent or out to get us or both. In short, the federal government is the problem, not the solution, as another famous Republican said so long ago.

These and other right-wing fantasies get to us sometimes. They get to those of us who care about the well-being of America, of Americans, and the government’s role in insuring and maintaining that well-being. And it gets to us when we find out that because of the Republican obsession with debt and deficits, the National Weather Service, which was able to warn people well in advance of the storms in Moore and Joplin and elsewhere—and thus saved countless lives—is facing sequestration budget cuts of over 8%

The American Institute of Physics said of those weather-related budget cuts:

…the government runs the risk of significantly increasing forecast error and, the government’s ability to warn Americans across the country about high impact weather events, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, will be compromised.

That’s why so many of us get frustrated and angry and say nasty things about Republicans. We know we shouldn’t. We know we should be civil, especially at a time when the death and destruction in Moore, Oklahoma, is still being contemplated. But we’re only human. We can only take so much of this stuff.

Fortunately, our President, who has managed to remain calm and steady through all the attacks on his character and his presidency, is much better than some of us when it comes to these things. He said this morning:

If there is hope to hold on to, not just in Oklahoma but around the country, it’s the knowledge that the good people there in Oklahoma are better prepared for this type of storm than most. And what they can be certain of is that Americans from every corner of this country will be right there with them, opening our homes, our hearts, to those in need because we are a nation that stands with our fellow citizens as long as it takes. We’ve seen that spirit in Joplin, in Tuscaloosa. We saw that spirit in Boston, in Breezy Point. And that’s what the people of Oklahoma are going to need from us right now.

That’s what a president of all the people, even of people who gave him only 33% of the vote, even people who loathe him and think he is destroying the country, that’s what a President of the United States should say at times like these.

And the rest of us, those of us who just get tired of the constant obstruction and obfuscation and obloquy related to President Obama and the federal government, we should bite our tongues for a while and fight our fights on a sunnier, less sorrowful day.

It’s Obama’s Fault That There Aren’t Enough Socratic Children Being Born in Washington

On ABC’s This Week, the host offered up the suggestion that the failure to do anything meaningful in Washington was President Obama’s fault:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: …a lot of questions about the president’s leadership as he pushes all of these as well, especially after the failure, during the bombings, of the background checks.

It’s created a whole bunch of comparisons, especially in the “New York Times” I noticed. The president, they say, is not enough like LBJ. Front page story this week. Went on and said, “If he cannot translate the support of 90 percent of the public for background checks into a victory on Capitol Hill, what can he expect to accomplish legislatively for his remaining three and a half years in office? Robert Dallek, historian and biographer of President Lyndon B. Johnson, said Mr. Obama seems ‘inclined to believe that sweet reason is what you need to use with people in high office.’ That contrasts with Johnson’s belief that ‘what you need to do is to back people up against a wall.”

Stephanopoulos did accurately point out that LBJ had “massive majorities” of Democrats “in both the House and Senate,” which, obviously, was much different from Obama’s situation. To which Genius George Will responded:

WILL: …Lyndon Johnson did understand that politics is a transactional business. You give something, you get something. This president has an inordinate faith in the power of his rhetoric. He campaigned against Scott Brown, against Chris Christy, against Bob McDonnell. He campaigned hard for the Democratic candidates in 2010 that got shellacked. He campaigned for Obamacare. It’s still very unpopular. His rhetoric is overrated. It is no basis for government.

Now, if you have followed George Will’s ongoing critique of the President, you know that he often comments on how Obama talks too much, is too visible, and “has an inordinate faith in the power of his rhetoric.” That is pretty much the standard Republican criticism of our first black president: he’s just a little too uppity. Doesn’t quite know his limitations.

But I want to point out once again what has lately become another standard Republican critique of President Obama, expressed by Matthew Dowd, who worked for Bush-Cheney, and who now is a frequent talking head on ABC’s This Week. He added his own analysis to Will’s criticism of Obama’s excessive faith in his rhetorical skills:

MATTHEW DOWD: …I think the president, he’s had a lot of great speeches that he’s given. But I think they’ve made a mistake by not having a relationship, not trying to build one-on-one relationships in Congress and saying we’re going to go out and talk to the country. We’re not going to worry about Washington, D.C.

This president has never built relationships outside of saying, I need your vote tomorrow….it’s all been photo ops with Congress. He hasn’t reached out. He hasn’t consistently said come to Camp David, “sit down with me, let’s talk about this.”

I think if the president had that ability—he’s got a 1 on 10,000 ability—he does not have a 1 on 1 ability.

If you listen to a lot of “expert” talk on cable TV, you hear that same criticism of President Obama a lot. He’s aloof. He’s professorial. He’s not good at one-on-one politics.

And it’s all bullshit.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn is said to be one of President Obama’s good friends in the Senate. They are supposed to be fairly close. Coburn has described Obama as a “good personal friend.” And a lot of good their alleged friendship has done the President, or the country. Coburn recently voted against legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases—something that enjoys nearly universal support among the American people—a vote that was exactly the same as Oklahoma’s other extremist senator, and most definitely not a friend of President Obama, the nutty Jim Inhofe.

One must ask: With friends like Tom Coburn, who needs Jim Inhofe?

What political good does it do for Obama to have a good relationship with Tom Coburn? No political good, that’s what. Yet, some folks blame President Obama for not getting background checks passed in Congress because he just can’t seem to “connect” with the galactic egos of mostly Republican legislators.

When people like Matthew Dowd say things like he said on Sunday, that President Obama “hasn’t reached out” and that reaching out to Republicans would somehow change the dynamics in Washington, they are obligated to explain how that would change the dynamics.

Matthew Dowd and other pundits are obligated to explain how such schmoozing would change one damn thing about what is happening, about what has been happening, in the Republican-controlled Congress—yep, the Republicans essentially control the entire Congress these days.

Matthew Dowd should explain how it would work. If President Obama invited, say, Ted Cruz to Camp David for some croquet and Chablis, would that meant that the Tea Party zealot would vote for immigration reform some day? If Obama invited Paul Ryan to play golf every Sunday on the finest course in Virginia, would that mean that Ryan would stop trying to kill Medicare? Would happy Socratic children, their DNA riddled with reasonableness, be born all over Washington, D.C., if only The Scary Negro would simply talk friendly to these guys, cozy up to his political enemies, and massage their Milky Way-size egos?

Come on, people. The problem isn’t that President Obama hasn’t cultivated political relationships with hyper-partisan, fanatically-ideological legislators. It is that those hyper-partisan fanatics mean to slit his political throat, whether they get invited to dinner or not.

Obama: “Shame On Us If We’ve Forgotten”

“The notion that two months or three months after something as horrific as what happened in Newtown happens and we’ve moved on to other things, that’s not who we are.  That’s not who we are. 

And I want to make sure every American is listening today.  Less than 100 days ago that happened, and the entire country was shocked.  And the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different.  Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.  I haven’t forgotten those kids.  Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.”

—President Obama, March 28, 2013

wwhen you think about it, the dysfunction in our nation’s capital, mostly caused by Tea Party Republican’s unwillingness to accept the political legitimacy of their opponents, is more obvious and discouraging not in the battles over budgets and deficits and debt, but in the battle over something as simple and commonsensical as requiring universal background checks for folks who want to purchase weapons.

It really is amazing that the President of the United States has to fight so hard to secure something so simple and so practical and so necessary for our nation’s well-being.

President Obama asked a series of questions on Thursday that deserve answers:

Why wouldn’t we want to make it more difficult for a dangerous person to get his or her hand on a gun? 

Why wouldn’t we want to close the loophole that allows as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases to take place without a background check? 

Why wouldn’t we do that?

President Obama on gun violenceThe President mentioned that 90% of Americans, including “more than 80 percent of Republicans,” support universal background checks, which simply means closing the current loopholes in the law that allow private sales, such as at gun shows, to go unchecked. Yet if these new-and-improved background checks become law, it will take a relatively strong offensive by the American people and those in Congress who support common sense on making the country a little bit safer when it comes to guns.

And nothing, not disagreements about Medicare, ObamaCare, or the dark and Randian components of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, demonstrates just how broken and malfunctional is our national legislature—because extremist Republicans mean to break it and keep it from working—than this one simple issue of requiring a universal five-minute background check on people who wish to purchase killing machines.

 

Bad News For Republicans, Good News For America And The Kenyan Socialist In The White’s House

UNEMPLOYMENT FEB 2013No one is satisfied with these numbers, but imagine what they would be like if President Obama and the Democrats didn’t have to fight with Republicans over debt ceilings, fiscal cliffs, sequesters, and threats of government shutdowns.

Over at Fox “News,” they had their fair and balanced spin on the good news:

fox news headline

Unbelievably—no wait, believably—the story began this way:

Despite the Obama administration’s doomsday warnings about the impact of sequester, hiring picked up last month as the unemployment rate fell to the lowest level in four years. 

You see? Far from giving the President’s economic policies any credit for the good news, Fox says things got better in spite of the President.

Happy Fair and Balanced Day To You Too!

A Very Stupid Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________________

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

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

__________________

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Section 4 of that amendment says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I Cry Tears Of Blood”

Because it reveals so much about their character, I’m going to feature some of the comments made by conservatives after they were O-bombed last night.

First up is Ted Nugent, who said this spring that he would “either be dead or in jail this time next year,” if Obama were elected in November.  Well, it’s gonna be a long winter for Ted:

Subhuman varmint.” Didn’t Mittens go hunting for those once?

In any case, Ted obviously is a master of the English language and pithily captured for us the essence of Romney’s “47%” speech:

Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters hav a president to destroy America

Obama destroying America—a constant theme before the election—seems to be  a popular post-election favorite among celebrity conservatives, if you can still call born-gain Christian Victoria Jackson, of Saturday Night Live fame, a celebrity:

I hate it when they turn on their own, don’t you? What would Jesus do after an election loss? I guess he’d be disgusted.

And who among us figured Donald Trump for a revolutionary buffoon? Not me, but:

Before any of you grab your Molotov cocktails and go huntin’ for the Founding Father who thunk up the electoral college, you should know that Trump has deleted these comments from his Twitter account.

That was a short revolution!

“The Hounds Of Racism” Are Howling

As right-wingers begin to think the unthinkable, that Barack Hussein Obama just might serve another four years, we can expect the nastiness to escalate.

From The Washington Post:

RICHMOND — Virginia Republican Party officials on Tuesday ordered their Mecklenburg County affiliate to remove photos portraying President Obama as a witch doctor, a caveman and a thug from its Facebook page.

No racism there, right? The local GOP chairman initially refused to take down the photos, but I noticed today the Facebook page is dead. Defiant racists aren’t what they used to be, I suppose.

We’ve all seen the witch doctor photo, and here are the other two mentioned:

Classy stuff. But that’s just some rednecks in rural Virgina, so Republicans don’t want us to worry about it. It doesn’t reflect the party’s views about Mr. Obama, they say.

Okay. But maybe this does, from the lips of Romney surrogate Newt Gingrich:

He happens to be a partial, part-time president. He really is a lot like the substitute referees in the sense that he’s not a real president. I mean, he doesn’t do any of the things president do; he doesn’t worry about any of the things president’s do…he’s a false president…

Hmm. Not only is that disrespectful, but it sort of sounds like the old Georgian is calling our first African-American president a loafer. But that was on Tuesday. On Wednesday John Sununu, another Romney surrogate, clarified it for us, which I present from Fox “News”:

There. That’s better. The scary socialist Negro is lazy to boot!

As I always do in these cases, I will highlight with a box Romney’s response to such less-than-subtle racially-charged remarks uttered by his surrogates:

Oh, I forgot Romney fashions himself as a “No Apology” kind of guy.

In any case, I offer you an excellent observation by Geoffrey Dunn about how a lot of this dark stuff started with Sarah Palin:

when Palin accused then-candidate Obama of “palling around with terrorists” and of not being “a man who sees America as you see America,” she unleashed the hounds of racism in this country and in the Republican Party. She became the first serious candidate for national office since George Wallace to give both body and voice to the vulgarities of American right-wing talk radio and the pernicious racism that fuels it.

The “hounds of racism” are running quite free these days, and apparently Mitt Romney, who has had problems with dogs in the past, either can’t or doesn’t want to put them back in the kennel of shame where they belong.

In fact, Romney has often sounded like a hound himself, talking about “free stuff,” as in if you want free stuff “vote for the other guy.” And along those lines, I noticed today that Rush Limbaugh was playing a tape over and over—and over—of some hysterically sounding black woman yelling something about a phone. Immediately, I knew where to turn, since Matt Drudge is the source for a lot of Limbaugh’s material. Sure enough:

As I followed the link, I found a YouTube video recorded at a “Romney Event” near Cleveland, which had only 317 views when I watched:

Now, Limbaugh, who is one of those white-angst howling hounds unleashed by Sarah Palin, started talking about “Obama phones” and a website dedicated to telling folks like the woman above how to get their “free phones.”  Of course this plays into all the themes advanced by Republicans against our pigmented president: socialist, giver-of-free-stuff, all-around champion of the “permanent under class,” in Limbaugh’s phrase.

And that permanent under class, in the minds of a lot of Republican voters, looks like the woman above. That’s the point of those photos on that Virginia GOP website; that’s the point of Gingrich’s and Sununu’s comments; that’s the point of Drudge and Limbaugh promoting heavily that weird video.

In order to win, Romney has to get as many nervous whites to vote for him as he can, since he has lost any hope of getting much support from folks of color. That’s why he doesn’t say anything to shut down the obvious appeals to white angst by his official and unofficial surrogates.

That woman and her free “Obama phone” is just one more example for worried whites to consider in November, as conservatives see it. It turns out, though, that Obama had nothing to do with the free phones provided to low-income folks. The earliest version of the program was signed into law by, uh, Ronald Reagan!

But that fact won’t stop folks like Limbaugh, who said today that the phenomenon of people voting for Obama “is not about hard work.”

Go talk to the cell phone lady,” he said.

The Problem Is That Romney Hasn’t Attacked Obama’s “Ideology.” Huh?

He’s defined by liberalism or Marxism, socialism, whatever you want to call it.”

Rush Limbaugh

lthough this may cause you to upchuck your last meal, today Rush Limbaugh said he was “near orgasm” over Charles Krauthammer’s latest column. Okay, I’ll give you time to get that thought out of your mind.

Back? Good. What could Krauthammer say that would so delight Limbaugh? Oh, not much, except that he thinks Romney Hood ought to attack Obama not only on his “stewardship” of the economy, but on his “ideology.” Yep, Krauthammer thinks Obama, who has been called a socialist, Marxist, and communist by Republicans, hasn’t been hammered enough on his alleged radical ideas. If only Romney will “make the case” that Obama is a lefty, he will win back the White’s House. He wrote:

The ideological case…is not just appealing to a center-right country with twice as many conservatives as liberals, it is also explanatory. It underpins the stewardship argument. Obama’s ideology — and the program that followed — explains the failure of these four years.

(Try to ignore that last comment about “failure,” because Krauthammer suffers from “too many years of neurologically hazardous punditry,” a charge he once made against Bill Moyers and Paul Krugman.  Go to The Center for American Progress and listen to Michael Linden explain the success of the stimulus.)

Krauthammer said this is “a center-right country with twice as many conservatives as liberals.” I hear that nonsense a lot. And it almost always comes from folks like Krauthammer, who then go on to explain just how far left Mr. Obama has gone. At the end of his column, Krauthammer wrote:

If Republicans want to win, Obama’s deeply revealing, teleprompter-free you-didn’t-build-that confession of faith needs to be hung around his neck until Election Day. The third consecutive summer-of-recovery-that-never-came is attributable not just to Obama being in over his head but, even more important, to what’s in his head: a government-centered vision of the economy and society, and the policies that flow from it.

Now, it probably never occurred to someone as smart as Charles Krauthammer gets credit for being*, but someone with less brainy talent can easily see that if the country is “center-right,” if truly there are “twice as many conservatives as liberals,” and if Mr. Obama is a wild-eyed leftist in over his head, then there’s  no way that we ought to have seen this headline in today’s Washington Post:

Three polls show Obama widening lead over Romney

The story:

Three polls released in the last 24 hours show President Obama widening his lead over the former Massachusetts governor to as much as nine points. The surveys of registered voters, all conducted sometime between Aug. 2 and 8, also have Romney’s unfavorable ratings headed north. Two of the polls show his support among independents slipping.

The biggest surprise among those three polls perhaps was the Fox “News” poll, which shows Romney Hood trailing the left-wing Marxist by 9 points.

Krauthammer, of course, would attribute that spread to an ignorant public, who, despite four years of incessant ranting from folks like him, doesn’t yet know that the guy they favor is such a radical. It would never occur to him and other conservatives that a possible majority of the voting public simply might not buy into the often deranged attacks on their president.

And speaking of derangement, Krauthammer, who was trained as a psychiatrist, famously and churlishly bragged about discovering a new psychiatric illness among selected liberals in 2003 that he labeled “Bush Derangement Syndrome.” Since self-diagnosis of mental disorders may be problematic for obvious reasons, and given the presidential polling trends, I would suggest that Mr. Krauthammer get to a doctor before November 6.

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*Even smart people make dumb mistakes. In the column, Krauthammer noted:

The Congressional Budget Office reports that Obamacare will incur $1.68 trillion of new expenditures in its first decade.

If you follow that link he provided, you will find that the actual estimate from the CBO is 1.168 trillion, which means Krauthammer overstated the number by, oh, a half a trillion!

The Absolutely Safe Place

Next month, in case you are interested, there is a tribute to freaky fanaticism going on in Washington, D.C.

The event, officially known as the 2012 Faith & Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing, is being presented by a group called the Faith & Freedom Coalition. Here are some of the confirmed speakers at what most certainly will be an Obama hate-fest worthy of the name:

Dick Morris, Grover Norquist, Senator Rand Paul, Dinesh D’Souza, Herman Cain, Governor Bob McDonnell, James O’Keefe (remember him?), Senator Mike Lee, RNC chairman Reince Priebus, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Concerned Women for America president Penny Nance, Congressman Tom Price (GA), Congressman Pete Sessions (TX), Southern Baptist moralist-in-chief Dr. Richard Land, and a host of other right-wingers.

Now, first of all, you know everybody’s in for a toesuckin’ good time when Dick Morris is involved. But beyond the dactyl dishes, with all those reactionary Obama-haters in attendance there will certainly be much talk about how Obama loathes God, is destroying the country, and is an all-around wicked feller.

I know there will be such talk because, well, God didn’t tell Ralph Reed (yep, Jack Abramoff’s BFF is back!) to start the Faith & Freedom Coalition until—you guessed it—the summer of 2009! Let me see…what  happened just before that? Oh, yeah, the anti-Christ took office!

In any case, the FFC says it is dedicated tofree markets and free minds” and restoring moral values—uh, hopefully not Ralph Reed’s moral values—in our once-great land. Reed described his newest way to make money without doing manual labor as a “21st century version of the Christian Coalition on steroids…with a sprinkling of the NRA.”  

Oh, my Allah! Religious freaks with machine guns! What could be worse?

But even without guns these folks are some strange cats. Mother Jones reported recently on some of their activities:

Gary Marx, the executive director of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, sent out a fundraising letter this month urging people to sign a petition fighting Obama’s “war on religion,” writing: “The Obama Administration’s actions are evidence of a pattern of hostility towards religious institutions and an antipathy to uphold and protect the nation’s most fundamental founding principles.”

I told ya: Obama hates God and is trying to destroy the country!

It is too bad, though, as Mother Jones points out, that the Obama administration has been downright friendly to churchy folks:

When it comes to religious organizations and their treatment by the federal government, the Obama administration has been extremely generous. Religious groups have benefited handsomely from Obama’s stimulus package, budgets, and other policies. Under Obama, Catholic religious charities alone have received more than $650 million, according to a spokeswoman from the US Department of Health and Human Services, where much of the funding comes from. The USCCB, which has been such a vocal critic of the Obama administration, has seen its share of federal grants from HHS jump from $71.8 million in the last three years of the Bush administration to $81.2 million during the first three years of Obama. In fiscal 2011 alone, the group received a record $31.4 million from the administration it believes is virulently anti-Catholic, according to HHS data.

That’s some war on religion. But beyond all the noise about Obama’s non-existent war on the faithful is the more important charge that our President has “an antipathy to uphold and protect the nation’s most fundamental founding principles.”

Time out for a definition: Antipathy = “a feeling of intense aversion, dislike, or hostility”

You see, these theologically-crazed folks don’t just have policy or philosophical differences with Mr. Obama, they believe he intensely dislikes America and is somehow trying to undermine it.

Talking this nonsense does damage not only to the President, but to the country. Consider this question, which reportedly was part of a survey Ralph Reed’s group recently sent out as part of a fund-raising (imagine that) letter:

How much danger do you think liberty is in right now as a result of President Obama’s policies, actions and agenda for America’s future?

  • More serious that the threats we faced in World War II from Nazi Germany and the Japanese because the attack on liberty is from our own government.
  • More serious than the threat we faced from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
  • More serious than the Civil War.
  • All of the above.
  • Serious, but not as serious as the threats to liberty listed above.
  • President Obama is not an enemy of liberty.
  • Undecided.

That an organization, Christian or otherwise, would even seriously offer up Obama’s presidency as a possible threat to our liberties “more serious” than those posed by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union is, well, beyond polite words. What must their children think of America?

These people are sick. Their minds are poisoned not only by religious fanaticism, but by a Bible-size hatred for Barack Hussein Obama.

I’ll end with an excerpt from Sunday’s New York Times, concerning the marvelous and daring escape from house arrest in China by a blind human rights lawyer and dissident named Chen Guangcheng:

Friends said Mr. Chen’s subterfuge was months in the making. In recent weeks, they said, he stayed in bed continuously to convince his minders that he was too weak to walk, or to try to leave.

As part of the plan, his wife stayed behind to distract the guards stationed outside the front door.

After he scaled the wall outside his home, he hid somewhere before making his way to a predetermined pickup spot almost a day after leaving home…

According to Hu Jia, a well-known dissident and AIDS activist who met with him in Beijing last week, Mr. Chen, who had arrived in the capital on Monday, spent the subsequent three days protected by a loose network of supporters who made sure he slept in a different apartment each night.

Mr. Hu, who has been under constant surveillance, said the network consisted of five people. After several frantic days, he said, “It was decided that there was only one place in China that is absolutely safe, and that’s the U.S. Embassy.”

Get that, all you right-wing Christian paranoiacs? “There was only one place in China that is absolutely safethe U.S. Embassy.” And at the top of the chain of command of that absolutely safe and liberty-loving place is none other than Barack Obama.

Remarks And Asides

Mittens and his mate say that even though poor old Seamus loved the ride, they won’t ever put another dog on top of their car, at least so long as there is a campaign to run (reminds me of Romney’s weird admission: “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake. I can’t have illegals“).

Now, if we can only get them to be so kind to the poor, working moms, and Medicare recipients.

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Jon Walker at Firedoglake.com makes the point that states—particularly Republican-controlled states—are dragging their feet on creating insurance exchanges as part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act:

This whole problem could have been avoided if Democrats had gone with a national exchange like in the original House bill; but instead, Democrats foolishly insisted on going with the Senate’s idiotic approach of using a state-based exchange. It is likely that several states will not be ready to implement the law in 2014 forcing the federal government to step in to try to fill the voids.

Of course if voters put Republicans back in charge next year, we won’t have to worry about all those state-size voids in 2014 or any year thereafter.

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Despite overwhelming public support for the idea, the Buffett Rule went down on Monday even though it won a majority of Senate votes. Explain that to your bright-eyed kids as you simultaneously tell them about our wonderful and “democratic” political system.

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From the Why-Obama-Is-Not-A-Wild-Eyed-Liberal file:

The Obama administration on Wednesday decided not to move forward with an executive order prohibiting workplace discrimination among federal contractors that is a top priority for the LGBT community.

Now, from the Wild-Eyed-Liberals-Overreact-To-A-Bad-Obama-Decision file:

This is a truly pathetic time for Obama to start showing some executive restraint… I hope the LGBT community and the broad progressive community appreciate the full irony of this decision. Obama officially thinks it is appropriate to use his executive power to buy a drone from a government contractor and use that drone to execute you without trial, but he won’t use his executive power to tell that same contractor they can’t fire you for being gay.

No doubt there is some juicy irony in this misguided decision, but have these good liberals taken a look at the alternative lately? Huh?

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Speaking of irony, leave it to Fox “News” host Chris Wallace to at least attempt to properly place in context the near-lie told by the Romney campaign about the job losses among women just after Obama took office in January of 2009 (Wallace’s attempt was only a half-hearted one, it turns out).

Wallace mildly challenged senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie on the grossly incomplete claim that 92% of job losses under Obama were jobs held by women. CBS’s Bob Scheiffer and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos simply tossed the claim out there (Stephanopoulos did it twice!) like it was legitimate.

Sadly, Stephanopoulos, a former Clintonite who tries like hell to make conservatives appreciate him, has been at this stuff a long time. He asked Obama a Sean Hannity-generated question about Bill Ayers in the 2008 debate, but still the right-wing will show him no love.

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Yet another conservative constitutional scholar has sided with Obama on the constitutional legitimacy of the Affordable Care Act and has done so on traditionally conservative grounds:

I recognize that many persons believe the health mandate is very bad legislative policy. But the appropriate judicial response to such a complaint has long been clear. The Court was admirably forthright about the point in its ruling in Munn v. Illinois in 1876: “For protection against abuses by the Legislature, the people must resort to the polls, not the courts.”

We will soon find out who the true conservatives on the court are.

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Finally, the alleged cheapskate Secret Service agents involved in the scandal over hookers at the Pley Club in Cartagena, Colombia, ought to be ashamed of themselves. If you are out to have “a little fun and flesh” (as The New York Daily News put it) and all that is said about you is, “They had huge egos,” then you are a real loser.

A “Federally Dictated Confection” or a “Life Changing” Car?

Sometimes conservatives just flat-out lie through their gold teeth.

Take, for only one instance, Charles Krauthammer, a Fox-stained conservative who gets much credit for smarts. A couple of weeks ago he wrote a column titled, “Obama’s oil flimflam,” filled with the usual Obama-should-drill-drill-drill-and-oh-yeah-he-should-build-the Keystone-pipeline and all will be well at the gas pump.

Now, this Krauthammer column was nothing out of the ordinary in the sense that it contained the requisite Obama-bashing that conservatives crave like chocolate. But it also contained this paragraph:

…Obama offers what he fancies to be the fuels of the future. You would think that he’d be a tad more modest today about his powers of divination after…GM’s suspension of production — for lack of demand — of another federally dictated confection, the flammable Chevy Volt.

You may have noticed there is a link embedded under the words Chevy Volt. Go ahead and follow it. I’ll wait.

Now, if you bothered to read that Washington Post story you know that GM did suspend production of the Chevy Volt, but the story also carried this paragraph:

GM executives have said the recent frenzy over a Volt battery fire in crash tests has hurt sales. On the merits, the fires weren’t a huge concern — the Volts only caught fire days or weeks after extreme lab testing, and according to a government investigation they’re no more likely to catch fire than gas-powered automobiles. Still, panicky headlines ensued. Conservatives started denouncing the company (Rush Limbaugh called GM “a corporation that’s trying to kill its customers”). And GM needed to retrofit new vehicles. Add that up, and GM sold only 603 Volts in January, down from 1,520 in December.

I ask a question: That deceitful and hateful statement from Limbaugh about GM “trying to kill its customers” differs in what way from Krauthammer’s lies about the “federally dictated” and “flammable” Chevy Volt?  The answer is that it doesn’t differ at all. Both Limbaugh and Krauthammer are lying about the car, mainly because it fits their narrative about Obama and about the government and about socially important corporations that happen to need government help to survive.

Less than a week after Krauthammer’s column came out, a right-winger and former GM honcho, Bob Lutz (“The Volt was my idea,” he has written), wrote a column for Forbes titled, I Give Up On Correcting The Wrong-Headed Right Over The Volt.  He noted Krauthammer’s falsehoods and then he wrote this:

Now, Krauthammer is a smart, highly educated and well-informed individual. I have to assume he knows the truth. The fact that he persists in the myth of Volt combustibility and Obama-conception of the vehicle cannot be in error.

I am, sadly, coming to the conclusion that all the icons of conservatism are (shock, horror!) deliberately not telling the truth!

This saddens me, because, to this writer, conservatism IS fundamental truth. It only damages its inherent credibility with momentarily convenient fiction.

So, Mr. Krauthammer joins the list of right-wing pundits I no longer take seriously. After all, how do I know they’re telling the truth when the subject is one I’m not as familiar with as the Volt?

Besides Limbaugh and Krauthammer, some of those right-wingers that Bob Lutz is forced not to take seriously are Mittens, George WillStuart Varney, Neil Cavuto, Eric Bolling, Matt Drudge, Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly. Those last two the conservative Lutz categorized as members of “the rabid, sadly misinformed right” and “the loony right.”

Another conservative appeared last week on the normally IQ-sapping Fox and Friends and sang the praises of the Chevy Volt, but before he did Texan Lee Spieckerman said this:

I love oil. I’m a drill, baby, drill guy…I love Fox “News” and feel like I’m kind of attacking my own family here because I love O’Reilly, I love Neil Cavuto, I love Eric Bolling, but like a lot of my fellow conservatives, they seem to have kind of a fetish for demonizing the Volt, and they’re perpetuating this myth that the Volt was some kind of Obama administration green-energy fantasy…that was forced on General Motors during the bailout.

It had been in development two years before Obama was elected, and it was championed by one of the greatest car executives in American history, Bob Lutz, who is a conservative and a climate-change skeptic…the tax break for buying the Volt was implemented by the Bush administration…

During the segment, Fox put up this graphic, which is the least it could do since it has greatly contributed to the misinformation out there about the Volt:

The Volt was the 2011 North American Car of the Year and was Motor Trend’s Car of the Year and is the 2012 European Car of the Year, but it is fairly expensive—even with the $7,500 tax credit it’ll set you back $32,000—and that, no doubt, is the biggest factor in its lackluster sales to date, even taking into consideration the lies told about it on Fox and elsewhere.

Lee Spieckerman summed up the vehicle nicely when he said:

There are probably 10 inventions over the past 150 years that were life changing for Americans, and I think the Volt has the potential to be one of those things. I mean, a car that runs on American electricity derived from American sources. What will those crazy lefties think of next?

This crazy lefty is thinking of a way to harness all of the energy that is going into the massive misinformation operation that is Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. If there were only a way to put Mittens’ lies in my gas tank, I wouldn’t need what is now a Fox-endorsed Chevy Volt.

Obama Is Still “The Other”

From the beginning of the Age of Obama conservatives developed and propagated a narrative about him that is all too familiar to us today, which says something sad about the state of the country, beyond our economic troubles.

Barack Hussein Obama is not one of us, goes this powerful, if false, narrative.  He doesn’t share our values, our view of things.  His eyes don’t see what we see. He is a stranger, an alien, a trespasser. This narrative plays out on cable news, on blogs, on talk radio, and I have witnessed its power in local discussions with conservatives. 

Since the birther foolishness now has validity only in Trump-like minds,* there are two basic lies that conservatives use to keep the Obama-as-other narrative alive:

LIE #1: Barack Hussein Obama doesn’t love America This lie has been expressed in many forms, from the in-your-face charge by Dinesh D’Souza (backed up by Newt Gingrich) that Mr. Obama  really does, in fact, hate America, to the only slightly less offensive form by Mitt Romney—spoken as he launched his campaign for Obama’s job:

I believe in that America. I know you believe in that America. It is an America of freedom and opportunity. A nation where innovation and hard work propel the most powerful economy in the world. A land that is secured by the greatest military the world has ever seen, and by friends and allies across the globe.

President Obama sees a different America and has taken us in a different direction.

A few months into office, he travelled around the globe to apologize for America.

Never mind that even before Romney uttered those words in June, Politifact had already given Romney a “Pants on Fire” rating for the same “apologize for America” charge Romney included in his book, No Apology.  Romney, knowing how important to conservatives is the Obama-hates-America meme, doesn’t mind repeating an obvious lie to help whitewash his past sins as a “moderate” Republican.

This first lie turned up again recently—where else?—Fox “News” Channel.  The IQ-killing morning show, Fox and Friends, used a WikiLeaks cable to claim that during his visit to Japan in 2009,  President Obama had planned to apologize for dropping The Bomb on Hiroshima.  The serial piffle pouring from these three stooges—my apologizes to Larry, Curly, and Moe—can only be appreciated by watching them deliver it.  Here ’tis:

Needless to say, the apology offered by Steve Doocy the next day wasn’t an apology, only a “clarification.” In any case, the damage was done—or in the case of keeping alive the Obama-as-other narrative—the job was successful.

LIE #2: Barack Hussein Obama is not a “real” Christian.  This lie, too, is expressed in many forms familiar to us, from the assertion that he is deceiving us and he is not a genuine follower of Jesus (sadly summarized here), to more subtle forms like acknowledging that he may be a “professing” Christian, but he “embraces un-biblical values,” as pastor Robert Jeffress recently said.

Other forms of this lie are manifested in ways like the following, from the mouth of Rush Limbaugh on October 14:

President Obama has deployed troops to another war, in Africa, ladies and gentlemen.  Jacob Tapper, ABC News, is reporting that Obama has sent 100 US troops to Uganda to help combat Lord’s Resistance Army…

Now, up until today, most Americans have never heard of the combat Lord’s Resistance Army.  And here we are at war with them… Lord’s Resistance Army are Christians.  They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan.  And Obama has sent troops, United States troops to remove them from the battlefield, which means kill them…

So that’s a new war, a hundred troops to wipe out Christians in Sudan, Uganda…

Some staffer eventually made Limbaugh aware of the true nature of the LRA, and this is what Limbaugh said afterward:

Is that right? The Lord’s Resistance Army is being accused of really bad stuff? Child kidnapping, torture, murder, that kind of stuff? Well, we just found out about this today. We’re gonna do, of course, our due diligence research on it. But nevertheless we got a hundred troops being sent over there to fight these guys — and they claim to be Christians.

You see? The overriding idea—more important than the fact that the LRA kidnaps, tortures, rapes, and murders—is that Obama is going to war against these people obviously—to Limbaush and his true-believing listeners—because “they claim to be Christians” and Obama sides with the Muslims.

There are no words, publishable on a blog associated with a family newspaper, to describe this kind of stuff. But it sends shivers down my American spine to think that every single day millions upon millions of my fellow citizens willingly surrender their minds to cretinous or crude propagandists on Fox and conservative talk radio.

And the biggest spine-convulsing shiver of them all comes when I remember that I used to be one of them.

__________________________

* Sunday’s Parade magazine article on faltering Rick Perry featured this exchange:

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

But you’ve seen his.
I don’t know. Have I?

You don’t believe what’s been released?
I don’t know. I had dinner with Donald Trump the other night.

And?
That came up.

And he said?
He doesn’t think it’s real.

And you said?
I don’t have any idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s the President of the United States. He’s elected. It’s a distractive issue.

Hope, Optimism, And The Democratic Party

After years of living in the conservative Republican wilderness, I proudly admit to being a partisan Democrat these days.

Saturday night here in Joplin, I was privileged to hear the Missouri State Treasurer, Clint Zweifel, speak at a local Democratic Party fundraiser.  What I was most impressed by was Zweifel’s theme of optimism. He had the unmitigated cheekiness and cheeriness to say that Democrats were, uh, optimists.

Well, it is easy these days not to be optimistic, to be sure.  The economy is sputtering, our capitalist system is sickly, Tea Party Republicans have made it impossible to govern the country responsibly, and—let’s face it—many people believe Democrats will lose control of the entire government next year.

But  Mr. Zweifel is right, of course. Democrats are the optimists, and the Democratic Party, with all its flaws, is the clichéd party of hope, and that hope is generated by a simple fact, as Harry Truman once said:

…the Democratic Party is the people’s party, and the Republican Party is the party of special interest, and it always has been and always will be.

The people’s party.  If that isn’t optimistic, then what could be in this democracy of ours?

Mr. Obama said on Sunday, honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

..at this moment, when our politics appear so sharply polarized, and faith in our institutions so greatly diminished, we need more than ever to take heed of Dr. King’s teachings.  He calls on us to stand in the other person’s shoes; to see through their eyes; to understand their pain.  He tells us that we have a duty to fight against poverty, even if we are well off; to care about the child in the decrepit school even if our own children are doing fine; to show compassion toward the immigrant family, with the knowledge that most of us are only a few generations removed from similar hardships.  (Applause.)

To say that we are bound together as one people, and must constantly strive to see ourselves in one another, is not to argue for a false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo.  As was true 50 years ago, as has been true throughout human history, those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as “divisive.”  They’ll say any challenge to the existing arrangements are unwise and destabilizing.  Dr. King understood that peace without justice was no peace at all; that aligning our reality with our ideals often requires the speaking of uncomfortable truths and the creative tension of non-violent protest.

Some uncomfortable truths need to be spoken to Americans, and Mr. Obama, lately finding his voice, has begun to speak them, even as some “creative tension” emerges from the Occupy Wall Street protests. Spoken of Dr. King, but really reflecting Obama’s vision, the President said:

If he were alive today, I believe he would remind us that the unemployed worker can rightly challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing all who work there; that the businessman can enter tough negotiations with his company’s union without vilifying the right to collectively bargain.  He would want us to know we can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other’s love for this country — (applause) — with the knowledge that in this democracy, government is no distant object but is rather an expression of our common commitments to one another.

As I have pointed out a thousand times, the worst sin of Tea Party Republicans has been the demonization of government, which really is the demonization of “our common commitments to one another,” of “We the People.” And because the Democratic Party is the party of the people, as Truman said so long ago, that is why Democrats are, and must be, optimists.

I want to repeat something Mr. Obama said on Sunday:

To say that we are bound together as one people, and must constantly strive to see ourselves in one another, is not to argue for a false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo.  As was true 50 years ago, as has been true throughout human history, those with power and privilege will often decry any call for change as “divisive.” 

That is the message Obama should be bringing to Americans, as we move into the 2012 election season. We can’t pretend there are no differences between one side and the other because to do so is an admission that things can’t change and get better. 

Out of fear of being called “divisive,” we can’t pretend that extremist Republicans in Congress have done no harm to the country.  And we can’t pretend that turning over the White House and the entire government to Republicans next year won’t have harmful consequences.

The 1948 election in many important ways is relevant to the one awaiting us next year.  Harry Truman faced certain defeat, as is well-known. But he didn’t talk about “false unity that papers over our differences and ratifies an unjust status quo.” He told the truth about Republicans, including their responsibility for the worst economic crisis in our history, the Great Depression. In his nomination acceptance speech, he said:

The situation in 1932 was due to the policies of the Republican Party control of the Government of the United States. The Republican Party, as I said a while ago, favors the privileged few and not the common everyday man. Ever since its inception, that party has been under the control of special privilege; and they have completely proved it in the 80th Congress. They proved it by the things they did to the people, and not for them. They proved it by the things they failed to do.

The things they failed to do.”  Mr. Obama ought to put that in every speech he utters from now until November 2012. Republicans have, indeed, failed to do anything to help mitigate the second-worst economic crisis in our history, a crisis also largely “due to the policies of the Republican Party control of the Government of the United States.”

I don’t care if it vexes every political pundit on cable television, Mr. Obama needs to remind the country how we got into the mess we’re in, and “the things Republicans have failed to do” to help fix it.

As he faces pessimism about his party’s chances to win next year, the President can take comfort from the fact that Mr. Truman overcame a noisy fracture in his own party—including a nasty fight with southern conservative Democrats over, what else, civil rights—and shocked the world with his victory over heavily favored Republican Thomas Dewey.

Following that note of unexpected triumph, I want to end with Truman’s unapologetic defense of his party’s raison d’être from his 1948 speech accepting the nomination:

In 1932 we were attacking the citadel of special privilege and greed. We were fighting to drive the money changers from the temple. Today, in 1948, we are now the defenders of the stronghold of democracy and of equal opportunity, the haven of the ordinary people of this land and not of the favored classes or the powerful few.

Optimism. Pure optimism.

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