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.

__________________

…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.

__________________

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.

I’m Rooting For Radical Rick

Republicans are giddy over Rick Perry.

Me, too.

While most liberals and Democrats are upset with the intemperate Texan, I am excited. Remember during the 2008 campaign when that crazy lady in Minnesota stood up at a McCain rally and said, “Obama is an Arab“?

And remember when McCain grabbed the microphone from her and sort of tried to de-Arab Obama?  McCain said,

No ma’am.  He’s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.

Well, if that same thing happened during the 2012 election with Rick Perry as the nominee, we might have this happen:

WOMAN AT PERRY RALLY: Obama is an Arab.

PERRY: No ma’am. He’s not in love with America, that’s for sure. But an Arab? No ma’am.  Now, he is a socialist the troops don’t respect, and you can count on it when I’m president that the military will respect me, a white guy from the great state of Texas.  There won’t be a black cloud hanging over the country.

You see?  That could happen.  Wait.  It already has happened, sort of.

Perry has already—just a couple days into the primary campaign—questioned Obama’s love for America and his bona fides as Commander-in-chief.  And the underlying, as of yet unspoken, foundation for such things is this:

WE JUST CAN’T TRUST THIS STRANGE NEGRO TO RUN THE COUNTRY

And to top it all off, Perry said this about Ben Bernanke, Fed chairman:

If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.

Treasonous?  What could he mean by that?

He told reporters, who ask him if he thought the Fed was playing politics on behalf of Obama:

If they print more money between now and this election I would suggest that’s exactly what’s going on.

Now, think about it.  If Bernanke’s actions help Obama, Bernanke is “almost” committing treason.  That must mean that Obama is an enemy to the country, right?  Helping The Scary Negro remain president is tantamount, or “almost” tantamount, to betraying the country.

Perry is merely saying out loud what a lot of Republicans say among themselves.

Thus, as the truth trickles out about Rick Perry’s dubious job record in Texas (by the way, why is Obama responsible for all the unemployment in the rest of the country, but not responsible for the employment in Texas?);

As the truth trickles out about Rick Perry’s constitutional hostility toward Social Security and Medicare;

As the truth trickles out about Rick Perry’s fondness for trickle-down economics, which has miserably failed Texas and the country;

I am rooting for Radical Rick to become the GOP nominee because he represents an embarrassingly large swath of the Republican Party these days, and the American people will have no clearer choice of visions for our country. 

If Americans want George Bush on Rovian steroids, if they want Sarah Palin with a Texas twang, if they want a pale-faced zealot who is dangerously certain of God’s calling and purpose, Rick Perry is their man.

And if fifty-percent-plus-one of the country want that kind of America, the rest of us will just have to suffer.  But it’s time we find out what kind of country we will have.

Remarks And Asides, Debt Ceiling Edition

Obama still insists on a debt ceiling deal that goes beyond the 2012 election and Speaker John Boehner has newly offered a deal to, what else, raise the debt ceiling for only six months, so as to embarrass the President and gain political advantage later on during the 2012 election cycle. 

Now, that’s responsible governing.

And Tea Party spokesman Eric Cantor is in favor of the short-term proposal, apparently saying to the GOP House caucus that Obama’s insistence on a long-term deal is “purely political and indefensible, ” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Problem is, as Think Progress points out,  Eric Cantor opposed such a short-term deal just a short term ago, saying, “Putting off tough decisions is not what people want in this town.”

The Keystone Kops were more competent than this bunch of GOP “leaders.”  By the way, it has now been more than 200 days since the House Republicans took over, promising jobs, jobs, jobs.  They haven’t even offered a jobs bill, let alone produced a single job outside of Grover Norquist’s TV-booking secretary.

______________________________

Meanwhile, feeling left out, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi)—who agree that Boehner’s short-term offering is a “non-starter“—offered yet another proposal:

In an effort to reach a bipartisan compromise, we are putting together a $2.7 trillion deficit reduction package that meets Republicans’ two major criteria: it will include enough spending cuts to meet or exceed the amount of a debt ceiling raise through the end of 2012, and it will not include revenues. We hope Speaker Boehner will abandon his ‘my way or the highway’ approach, and join us in forging a bipartisan compromise along these lines.”

There you have it. In order to protect Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries from ravenous Republicans, as well as preserve the turtlish economic recovery, if not the economy itself, Democrats are willing to concede game, set, and match to the Republicans.

Except that the game, set, and match in which Republicans in the House appear to be interested involves the very social programs that Democrats vow to protect—with support from large majorities of the American people.

_______________________________

Related to all this is Teresa Tritch’s post on Saturday in The New York Times, which featured these two graphs, a study of which will reveal “How the Deficit Got This Big,” the title of Tritch’s piece:

__________________________________________________________

 ________________________________

Finally, as the world turns, foreign markets were down as the U.S. appears to be ungovernable, gold—the currency of uncertainty—hits  a record high, and the so-called safe haven paper currency of choice is decidedly not the U.S dollar, at least today, for obvious reasons.  

Once upon at time, before the advent of the Tea Party, the following was true:

When the world is in turmoil, investors have usually had one automatic response: Put money into dollars, viewed as the global safe harbor.

What does the world do when the turmoil is in the home of the ultimate safe haven for investors?

Well, no one is panicking yet, but the clock is ticking.  Either today, after trading in the U.S. begins, or sometimes this week, Wall Street will send a message to the GOP: Stop the madness.

Divided Loyalties

Ninety-seven percent of House Republicans and all but seven Republicans in the Senate have essentially taken two oaths, which I present below in both chronological order of execution and in order of primacy:

1.  To support and defend Grover Norquist in his effort to reduce government sufficiently so that he can “drown it in the bathtub.”

2.  To “support and defend the Constitution,” which includes the pledge to “faithfully discharge the duties of the office” on which they enter.

It is increasingly clear that Republicans, at least in the House, are not willing to discharge the duties of their office, faithfully or otherwise, but are willing to flush the country down the toilet in a spasm of misplaced loyalty to a life-long, wealthy right-wing activist, who stupidly said in 2009:

When I became 21, I decided that nobody learned anything about politics after the age of 21.

That’s the mental state of a man who is the most powerful Republican in the country.

Norquist’s ongoing claim to fame is his Americans for Tax Reform, which self-claims that it “was founded in 1985…at the request of President Reagan,” and which is responsible for the worst American domestic mischief of the past 30 years, outside of the 9/11 attacks.*

Here is the mission statement of this quasi-religious group:

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle.

We believe in a system in which taxes are simpler, flatter, more visible, and lower than they are today.  The government’s power to control one’s life derives from its power to tax.  We believe that power should be minimized.

Now the sentiments expressed in that mission statement are supposedly the same sentiments that voters held as they swept into power the Norquistas in the Tea Party movement who now control the Republican Party.

Or are they the same sentiments?

Nate Silver, now with The New York Times, analyzed just-released Gallup poll data and came up with the following, in terms of people’s preferences for the proper mix of taxes and budget cuts as part of the deal to reduce the deficit: 

Silver also noted, incredibly, that “there is a larger ideological gap between House Republicans and Republican voters than there is between Republican voters and Democratic ones.”  He illustrated that ideological gap this way:

As you can see, House Republicans, with their anti-tax oath, have positioned themselves on the extreme, right where Grover Norquist, himself an extremist, wants them.

Unfortunately for Democrats, as Silver points out,

the mix of spending cuts and tax increases that Mr. Obama is offering is quite close to, or perhaps even a little to the right of, what the average Republican voter wants, let alone the average American.

And still that’s not good enough.

Mr. Obama has reportedly offered, under one ($2 trillion) scenario, a mix of 83% spending cuts to 17% tax increases.  The other scenario ($4 trillion)involves somewhere between 75 and 80% spending cuts.

Hopefully, this exceedingly generous and base-vexing offer is far as Obama will go.  But it appears fairly obvious that unless he is prepared to meet Republicans on the extreme, nothing he offers will cause House Republicans to get up off their collective knees, bent in loyalty to an anti-government fanatic, and fulfil their oath to do the right thing for their country.

_______________________________

* Interestingly, Norquist, who is married to a Muslim, has been viciously attacked by conservatives like Frank Gaffney and Pamela Geller and David Horowitz for his supposed connection to unseemly Muslim leaders, possibly including the Muslim Brotherhood. Don’t you just love these crazy folks?  Never mind that Norquist was in fact associated with a true criminal, former lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff, something that doesn’t seem to bother right-wingers.

President Obama, Are You Listening?

As I said on Thursday, the government shutdown in Minnesota eerily calls to mind the larger national fight over the budget, which also features Republican recalcitrance on raising taxes on the rich.  But it may also be the microcosm of national Democratic resolve to call the Republican bluff on the debt ceiling issue.

Here is how the Associated Press reported the Minnesota story late Friday night—under the headline,  “Vulnerable feel the pinch of Minn. gov’t shutdown“:

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The blind are losing reading services. A help line for the elderly has gone silent. And poor families are scrambling after the state stopped child care subsidies.

Hours after a political impasse forced a widespread government shutdown, Minnesota’s most vulnerable residents and about 22,000 laid-off state employees began feeling the effects on Friday. With no immediate end in sight to a dispute over taxes and spending, political leaders spent the day blaming each other for their failure to pass a budget that solves the state’s $5 billion deficit.

Get that? The blind, the elderly, and the poor. Now, you tell me who a majority of independent voters in this country will blame for the hardships suffered by the blind, the elderly, and the poor, should it come to that on the federal level?

You tell me which party is historically associated with protecting the blind, the elderly, and the poor? 

And you tell me which party is historically protective of the welfare of public employees?  Republicans? Are you kidding?

Governor Mark Dayton, after attempts at compromising with the uncompromising, rejected a last-minute offer to temporary avoid the mess because he wisely saw that it was only postponing the inevitable: Republicans absolutely refuse to consent to any tax increases on those who can afford it—Minnesota’s top 2 percent of income earners—no matter whom it hurts, the blind, the poor, or the elderly.

And in May, with this shutdown looming, what were Republicans in the Minnesota legislature doing?  They were passing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage!  Does this social-issues-trump-economic-issues stuff sound familiar?

Governor Dayton has suggested that Republican legislators take some time over the next few days and listen to their constituents, presumably and hopefully those whose income is somewhat less than a million bucks.  And a couple of weeks ago, he said this about his Republican colleagues:

The only solution they offer is for me to give in entirely to them.

Campaigns can rely on rhetoric, but governing requires facing reality. The responsibilities of shared leadership require compromise, which means agreeing to some things you don’t agree with. A “My Way or No Way” attitude makes it impossible to govern responsibly — or to govern at all.

If the Republican legislators continue to demand to have it all their way or no way, Minnesota’s state government will have to shut down on July 1. The effects of the shutdown on many Minnesotans’ lives will be very hard. But far worse would be the hardships that the Republican budget would impose on even more people during the next two years….

What does it say about politicians who would rather protect the richest 2 percent of Minnesotans than serve thousands of our citizens with serious needs?

That’s tough talk.  And it is tough talk that our Democratic President should pay attention to.

Eric Cantor: “I quit.” John Boehner: “Who, me?”

House Republican majority leader Eric Cantor is quitting half way through the infamous debt ceiling negotiations at the White House.

Cantor, in the spirit of the former half-governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, stayed around long enough to do only the fun stuff: cutting what he claims is trillions from the federal budget.  The rest of the job—negotiations over revenue increases—will fall on the shoulders of Cantor’s boss, Speaker John Boehner.

Cantor said,

I believe that we have identified trillions in spending cuts, and to date, we have established a blueprint that could institute the fiscal reforms needed to start getting our fiscal house in order. 

That said, each side came into these talks with certain orders, and as it stands the Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases. There is not support in the House for a tax increase, and I don’t believe now is the time to raise taxes in light of our current economic situation. Regardless of the progress that has been made, the tax issue must be resolved before discussions can continue.

The good news in Cantor’s statement is that it appears that Democrats are hanging tough on the issue of taxes, something many of us didn’t think possible.  The bad news is that no one knows what “trillions in spending cuts” means at this point.

Cantor claims—falsely—that, “there is not support in the House for a tax increase.”  John Boehner made the same false claim on Thursday.  What they mean is that there is not support on the Republican side of the House for a tax increase.  But most people forget that there are 192 Democrats wandering around the House side of the capitol, most of whom would certainly be open to revenue increases.

That means that Boehner cannot claim there is not support in the House for a tax increase, unless he admits that there is no way he could get a handful of Republicans to join Democrats to do the right and rational thing and vote for some kind of revenue increase. 

Right now there are 432 occupied seats in the House, meaning 217 is the magic majority number.  Assuming some very small number of Democrats behave like conservative tea partiers, Boehner would only have to come up with somewhere around 30 votes on his side of the aisle to get a deal passed that included tax increases.

Now, think about that.  We are talking about the debt ceiling and the full faith and credit of the United States.  We are talking about default and a potential economic catastrophe.  We are talking about geezers not getting their Social Security checks.  We are talking about international embarrassment.

Yet, John Boehner can’t come up with 25 or 30 Republican votes to save the day? Huh?

What kind of leader is he? What kind of party has the GOP become?

And that’s just the House side.

Over in the Senate, it is far from certain that rational behavior on the Republican side is any more reliable than in the tea party-dominated House.  Mitch McConnell is placing the burden all on President Obama:

Where in the world has the president been for the last month? What does he propose? What is he willing to do to reduce the debt and to avoid this crisis that is building on his watch? He’s the one in charge.

Forget the fact that Mr. Obama established the debt-ceiling talks in the first place and that Democrats, according to Cantor, have been agreeable to “trillions” in spending cuts.  We just aren’t dealing with serious people here. 

Once upon a time, the dynamics of these kinds of negotiations would always feature a lot of grandstanding, but in the end, we could count on there being enough serious and rational people who would do the right thing for the country.

One wonders these days if there are any serious and rational people left in the Republican Party.

The bottom line is that Democrats need to stand their ground and continue demanding a more balanced approach to addressing our debt problems. And if the Republican Party wants to risk an unprecedented economic meltdown—and have the blame for such a disaster follow them for a generation—then there is little Democrats can do to stop them, short of surrendering.

And for now it looks like Democrats have no plans to surrender.

I said, “for now.”  We are, after all, talking about Democrats.

Remarks and Asides

Newt Gingrich’s staff has divorced him.

_______________________________

Rush Limbaugh, conservatism’s coronating coroner, has pronounced Mitt Romney’s presidential ambitions dead.  The killer was Romney’s outrageously mainstream views on climate change and energy efficiency.  Reuters reported Romney, in a rare moment of consistency, said to a crowd in New Hampshire:

“I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that,” he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“It’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.”

Bye-bye nomination,” said climate-science denier and radio climatologist Limbaugh.  The good news for Romney is that Rush once pronounced Obama’s presidential ambitions dead in 2008. So, don’t take any shit, Mitt!

_________________________________

Speaking of Mitt, for strategic reasons he has decided not to compete in the decidedly undemocratic Iowa Republican straw poll this August.  You know, that’s the poll in which, thanks to the media and the deep pocket$ of hopeful candidates, a handful of extremist conservatives get disproportionate attention and nominate either an extremist loser like Pat Robertson (1987) or, God help us, George W. Bush (1999). 

Just to put things in perspective, the victory in the poll for George W, which he said, “jump-started our grass-roots organization for the main event, the Iowa caucuses,” was achieved by purchasing—literally, purchasing—the votes of 7,418 zealots.  Those are the folks we first have to thank for the costly disaster in Iraq and the costly disaster in our economy. 

The folks we have to thank last for those costly disasters are, of course, the Republicans on our laughingly impartial Supreme Court, who put W in office.

_________________________________

The state of Alaska is ready to release thousands of emails emanating from the fingertips of Sarah Palin during what the AP reports as “her first two years as governor.”  First two years?  That must be sort of an inside joke among those AP types.  Always kidding around like that.

In any case, I’m just guessing here, but I bet that we will find, upon release of the 24,000 pages of emails, that Sarah Palin is really an accomplished policy wonk. 

I’m betting that those emails will be filled with much technical analysis of the economic trends in Alaska, the United States, and the world.  I’m betting there will be back-and-forth on such macroeconomic issues as inflation/unemployment in terms of expectations-augmented Phillips curve equations, or how price and wage spirals relate to inflationary expectations. 

Stuff like that.

What? You don’t think so?  Have some faith. After all, she was the Republican VP nominee last time.  Jeeze.   

_________________________________

Finally, speaking of brilliant conservatives, there’s this report:

A new Tennessee law makes it a crime to “transmit or display an image” online that is likely to “frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress” to someone who sees it. Violations can get you almost a year in jail time or up to $2500 in fines.

Get that? I guess I’m gonna have to stop sending this to my conservative Tennessee friends:

Pick Your Medicare Metaphor

Apparently, there was a testy exchange between Paul Ryan and President Obama yesterday at the White House, during the House GOP-Obama budget discussions, which involved all but one member of the House Republican caucus.

The issue was related to how to properly describe the conservative plot to kill Medicare.  You see, Republicans say they believe it is in the best interests of the country to euthanize the Medicare program, sort of to put it—and the country, presumably—out of future misery. 

That mercy-killing, if you will, doesn’t sit well with the American people.  They sort of don’t want to see Medicare die at the hands of gleeful Republicans.  And those Republicans, who recognize that their plan isn’t popular, sort of want the Democratic Party to help them get away with the caper by not calling it what it is.  They also want Democrats to sort of join them in some way—perhaps by agreeing to a plan to drastically cut Medicare—so that the killing looks like a bipartisan job. 

It amounts to this: When Medicare is finally put to eternal sleep, Republicans would like for Democrats to be on the other side of the bed to help say goodbye.

The truth is that Republicans fear they will suffer mightily at the polls next year unless Democrats come to their political rescue by agreeing to something on Medicare that will let Republicans off the hook, a hook almost all of them are hanging on due to their vote for Ryan’s budget plan.

I heard a GOP congressman from Texas last night essentially say that Republicans aren’t “married” to the Ryan plan and were willing to listen to Democratic ideas.

Yes, I bet they are.

That same congressman also said he didn’t like to hear the plan mischaracterized.  I’m sure he wouldn’t like my “euthanize Medicare” metaphor, and he said didn’t appreciate the metaphor of “throwing grandma under the bus.”

No?

Okay.  I’ve got one that better describes the situation.  I agree that Republicans aren’t really trying to throw today’s grandmas under the bus. Republicans are actually trying to gather up all the current grandmas and herd them onto the bus.  Then that bus full of current grandmas will roll over the backs of all the future grandmas, who Republicans are throwing under the bus.

There. That’s better.

How Fox Is Hurting America

As if a thinking person needed any more reason to see the Fox “News” empire for what it is, try the following video clip of conspiracy tramp—and “official blogger for the Republican National Convention in 2008—Pamela Geller, from her appearance on Eric Bolling’s “show” on something called FOX “Business” Network.  I said “business” network.  Most of us know, though, that the real business of Fox is destroying President Obama.

I warn you, if you have one cell of decency in your body and you love your country, this will piss you off:

In case you don’t know much about Pamela Geller, besides her Sharia-law-is-coming crusade against Islam, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia about her blog, Atlas Shrugs:

Controversial postings on “Atlas Shrugs” have included a number of false claims,[47][48] including that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan (who is Jewish) supports Nazi ideology (accompanied by a fake picture of her in a Nazi uniform),[49] a video suggesting that Muslims have sex with goats, a doctored photo showing President Obama urinating on an American flag[12] and false claims that Obama’s mother was involved in pornography and that Obama “was involved with a crack whore in his youth”.[50][51] Geller has also posted accusations against President Obama of anti-Semitism and doing the bidding of “Islamic overlords,” while her site posted a posting by another writer who, inter alia, suggested without any evidence that the President is the “love child” of Malcolm X (Geller herself says she does not believe that Obama is Malcolm X’s love child, and never did).

Geller is, come to think of it, a perfect fit for Fox.

Ozark Billy Says “No” To Victory

All of our local Missouri representatives voted for the Boehner-Obama-Reid agreement on a short-term resolution to keep the government running until a final vote on the 2011 budget later this week. 

All except one. 

Ozark Billy Long, as the Springfield News-Leader reported, was one of only 28 Republicans who simply couldn’t say yes to a substantial victory for the GOP.  Long joined his auctioneer brother and union-hater Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, along with other Republican stars like Michele Bachmann, Joe Barton, Louis Gohmert, and Steve King. When you cast a vote with those folks, you know you have arrived in Republican Looneyville.

But Ozark Billy ran into a little trouble explaining his vote:

“They rattled off more different numbers than an auctioneer [sic] Friday night in explaining what had been agreed to,” Long wrote in an e-mail to the News-Leader.

“I voted against the one-week stop gap continuing resolution Friday night because it didn’t fund the troops for the rest of the year and didn’t cut enough spending. We need to quit using our fighting men and women as political pawns.”

Let’s forget for a moment that Ozark Billy apparently couldn’t digest all the “more different numbers” thrown his way Friday night, so he just said to heck with it, pardner.  And let’s forget the fact that the bill Long criticized because it “didn’t cut enough spending” wasn’t suppose to cut spending. It was designed to only fund the government through the end of this week, until the House and Senate can vote on the real deal. 

I’m not sure what Billy thought he was voting on, but clearly he was confused about the nature of the budget deal.

Additionally, the resolution Long didn’t vote for early Saturday morning not only didn’t fund the troops for the rest of the year, it didn’t fund anything for the rest of the year. That wasn’t its purpose. 

And Long’s statement, “We need to quit using our fighting men and women as political pawns,” is quite interesting, since that’s exactly what he and his Republican colleagues tried to do on Thursday, when they passed a stopgap measure that would have funded the government through April 15 and the Defense Department through the end of the fiscal year. 

And Long voted for that bill, which most certainly was using the troops as pawns in the budget game.  Here’s what House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said during floor debate on the measure:

If you vote against this bill, you are voting against the troops, who are engaged in three wars.

One of Ozark Billy’s handlers tried to clean up the mess a little bit with a lame explanation that was reported this way:

Bret Funk, spokesperson for Long, said the proposed resolution that will be voted on before Thursday is supposed to fund troops for the full year; Long favored a bill the House voted on earlier in the week that guaranteed funding for troops so they wouldn’t be left as pawns in the budget negotiations.

The truth is that Long is lost in Washington.  With all those “more different numbers” and confusing resolutions and budget dealing, he’s just out of his league.  But if you ever need to sell off grandma’s old furniture or grandpa’s old farm equipment or other second-hand goods, Ozark Billy, southwest Missouri’s most famous auctioneer, may be able to help you.

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