Jimmy Hoffa Didn’t Start This War

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, congresswoman from Florida and DNC honcho, appeared on Fox and Friends, the show were IQs go to die, and was grilled by Gretchen Carlson about Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa, Jr’s remarks before President Obama’s appearance in Detroit on Labor Day.

Naturally, the right-wing is all ablaze over Hoffa’s tough language—”Let’s take these son-of-a-bitches out“—using it to attack Obama and the Democrats for not “calling out” the labor leader.

Wasserman Schultz, after Gretchen Carlson kept insisting that she say something bad about Hoffa, ask Carlson this question:            

WASSERMAN SCHULZ: How many times have you called out coarse language at Tea Party rallies on this network?

CARLSON: Plenty.

WASSERMAN SCHULZ:  Almost never.

The “almost” was quite generous.

One of the most hilarious responses to the whole thing came from, if you can believe it, the Tea Party Express, which also called on President Obama to “condemn the inappropriate and uncivil rhetoric” because it doesn’t belong in a “public forum.”

After you stop laughing, think about the oversized cojones on the guy, or in this case, gal, who wrote up that statement.  After all the Obama-hate spewed at Tea Party rallies, after all the misspelled nastiness on placards held by Obama-hating Republicans, after all those chants of “take our country back” from that Scary Kenyan Socialist Muslim America-Hating Negro, it takes some kind of shameless moxie to put out a statement condemning anyone for intemperate language.

The Tea Party Express spokesman, Amy Kremer, also wrote this:

Jimmy Hoffa’s remarks are inexcusable and amount to a call for violence on peaceful tea party members, which include many Teamster members.

Well, no, his remarks didn’t amount to a call for violence on anyone.  They were a response to the metaphorical war already raging against the working class by Republican anti-union zealots.  Here are his remarks in context, as provided by ABC:

Warming up the crowd before President Obama’s Labor Day speech in Detroit this afternoon, Hoffa warned the largely union crowd that the Tea Party was waging a “war on workers.”

“We got to keep an eye on the battle that we face: The war on workers. And you see it everywhere, it is the Tea Party. And you know, there is only one way to beat and win that war. The one thing about working people is we like a good fight. And you know what? They’ve got a war, they got a war with us and there’s only going to be one winner. It’s going to be the workers of Michigan, and America. We’re going to win that war,” Hoffa told thousands of workers gathered for the annual event organized by the Detroit Labor Council.

“President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march…Everybody here’s got a vote…Let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong,” he concluded.

You see?  “We’ve got to keep an eye on the battle that we face: The war on workers.”  The-battle-we-face. That’s what he was referencing with his martial metaphor.  And the weapons in Hoffa’s metaphorical army are votes not guns: “Everybody here’s got a vote,” he said.

So, there’s simply nothing to the so-called controversy.

But there is something to the war-on-workers metaphor.  The following is a graph that I offer as evidence to support Hoffa’s claim that workers face a protracted battle with right-wingers, who have always targeted unions and union workers:

The correlation between union membership and middle-class earnings is unmistakable, and readers can judge for themselves whether there is a causal relationship, but for me the graph demonstrates that the relentless war on unionism waged by the Right has been wildly successful.

And successful, too, has been the war waged against President Obama, whose term, and by extension the economic recovery, has been sabotaged—yes, sabotaged—by Tea Party-backed Republicans in Congress.  And now they seek to emasculate him by cornering him into condemning a leader of the one constituency—unions—that helped create America’s middle class and has held together the Democratic Party through the hard times.

This is no time for the President to yield to his political enemies, nor to those who want to destroy labor unions. As I wrote last week, before Jimmy Hoffa’s battle call:

For those Americans who are depending on you and your party, Mr. Obama, it’s time to be yourself. It’s time to fight those sons of bitches.

Remarks And Asides

Apparently, George W. Bush told Brian Lamb of C-SPAN that he is finished with politics.  Damn.  He’s just 10 years too late.

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It seems Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia is in trouble again.  On Arabic television, of all places, he explained that the 2010 election shellacking was the result of “a lot of people” who,

don’t want to be governed by an African American, particularly one who is inclusive, who is liberal, who wants to spend money on everyone and who wants to reach out to include everyone in our society. That’s a basic philosophical clash.

Of course, Moran has it all wrong.  The reason for the shellacking was that a lot of people resent being governed by an African.

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The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission finally confirmed what most of us already knew: the financial meltdown was not the fault of poor, often minority, homebuyers who supposedly twisted the arms of helpless bankers in order to get mortgages they couldn’t afford. 

Of course, since the Republican members of the commission issued their own report, that leaves Republicans free to continue to falsely claim that efforts to help the poor own their own homes is the root of all financial evil.

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It was sad to see a once-respectable Wolf Blitzer of CNN waiting with great anticipation for Michele Bachmann to speak the other night, following Obama’s State of the Union Address.  No other network—not even the Republican “News” Channel—carried the speech, but CNN not only thought Bachmann’s speech was news, it promoted it heavily with a countdown clock and everything. And everyone knows that on cable TV, a countdown clock before an event means something really, really, really big is going to happen.

Bachmann was technically speaking only for Tea Party Express, but Blitzer billed her as an “official” spokesman for the entire Tea Party.  It turns out, as Rachel Maddow noted brilliantly, that CNN had a rea$on for promoting Bachmann and Tea Party Express: They’re in bed together. CNN has partnered with the phony—”sleazy,” is how Maddow characterized it—grass roots Tea Party group and will jointly host a Tea Party presidential primary debate in September.

And CNN is not shy about its motives. Its political director claims that,

undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the Tea Party.

Yes. More and more, as CNN attempts to outfox Fox, it is perfectly natural for the network to “provide a platform” for extremists in the Republican Party. 

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As Democrats salivate in anticipation, Republicans are half-seriously considering privatizing Medicare.  But don’t worry.  The leadership isn’t quite that dumb.  Here’s what John Boehner said,

We’ll outline our budget in the months ahead, after we see the president’s budget.

This type of “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours” cowardice may disappoint Democrats who want to bash Republicans with the issue, but in the end it will preserve a pillar of our socialistic society.  Unless, of course, the Tea Party pathology spreads and Michele Bachmann engineers a putsch and gets her hands on Boehner’s man-sized gavel.

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Finally, just prior to a Knicks-Heat contest, Tracy Morgan said on TNT:

Now let me tell you something about Sarah Palin, man, she’s good masturbation material. The glasses and all that? Great masturbation material.

Naturally, the network apologized for Morgan’s overly-descriptive (and inaccurate) commentary.  But it does explain why some tea party-ish Republican senators missed the inaugural meeting of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.

It conflicted with a rerun of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

What Would Happen If?

Yesterday afternoon, when I first heard about the attempted assassination of Democrat Representative Gabrielle Giffords in front of a Safeway in Tucson, the first thing I thought of was what I learned about Arizona while visiting the state last summer.

While I was there, I was disturbed by what I read in the paper about a new law related to gun ownership, and I posted a blog piece titled, “Don’t Forget Your Sam’s Card And Your Pistol“:

Last post from PHOENIX, AZ:  While most of the attention lately has been on the reactionary immigration law passed by the legislature, another unfortunate and reactionary Arizona law went into effect yesterday.

From the Arizona Republic:

Arizona is now the third state, behind Alaska and Vermont, to allow people to carry a concealed weapon without having to get a permit.

And not needing permits means no background checks or gun-safety classes.

The authorities tell us that yesterday’s shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, is a disturbed 22-year-old man, “mentally unstable,” in the words of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.  We also learned that his weapon of choice was purchased legally on November 30 in Tucson at a store called Sportsman Warehouse, which has other outlets in Arizona and throughout the western United States and the South.

According to The Washington Post:

Law enforcement sources said the gun used in the attack was fitted with a magazine that held about 30 bullets. The shooter had another magazine that held about 30 bullets and two that held about 15 bullets each, sources said, and he also had a knife.

Governor Jan Brewer signed Arizona’s so-called “constitutional carry” law last spring and it went into effect on July 29, 2010.  Just a few months later Loughner walked into a store in Tucson and purchased the gun that police say killed at least six people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl.

Because I have a daughter and granddaughter living in Phoenix, I am interested in Arizona politics, particularly in the fact that the state has seemed to become a place where the right-wing fringe not only feels comfortable, but many of those extremists have become respected office-holders.

As Sheriff Dupnik said yesterday, Arizona has “become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”  He also talked about how people like Jared Lee Loughner can be affected by a political philosophy run amok:

When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. 

Sheriff Dupnik put much of the blame on people in the “radio business and some people in the TV business,” and many of us think we know who he means by that, but it’s more than just loud-mouthed radio guys or rabble-rousing Fox “News” hosts and guests that are responsible for the vitriol, hatred and bigotry. 

Conservative politicians, some quite extreme, have sought and won political office in Arizona by exploiting the angst and fear over issues like immigration and they have in too many cases successfully turned many good folks against their own government.  They have also promoted an absolutist view of the Second Amendment that allows for almost no restrictions on gun ownership.

They  have done so with the blessing of the Republican Party establishment, which not only has uncritically embraced the Tea Party and its malcontents, but refuses to utter a word of criticism as right-wing talkers daily shout dangerous drivel about Barack Obama and the Democrats, drivel that includes charges that they don’t love America and want to destroy it.

Then there is Sharron Angle, who, now infamously, talked aboutSecond Amendment remedies” during her campaign against Harry Reid in Nevada.  Here is what she told conservative radio host Bill Manders last June:

Angle: I feel that the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry. This not for someone who’s in the military. This not for law enforcement. This is for us. And in fact when you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical…

Manders: If we needed it at any time in history, it might be right now.

Angle: Well it’s to defend ourselves. And you know, I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.

Prior to that exchange with Manders, Angle had suggested that she might be packing a .44 magnum:

“Whoa,” said Manders, “you’re not carrying that today are you in here?”

“Well,” Angle replied, “you know, as part of your test, they always say, ‘Don’t ever tell anybody if you’re carrying because the bad guys don’t need to know if you’re carrying.’ That’s what makes that [sic] concealed carries effective.”

Fortunately, although polling predicted a close win for Angle—Real Clear Politics showed her with almost a 3-point lead at the end—Harry Reid prevailed in that senate race.  But Sharron Angle did receive almost 45% of the vote to just over 50% for Reid. 

Although it was clear that Angle was an extremist, she won the endorsement of the Tea Party Express and the Club for Growth during the Republican primary.  And when she won the primary, the national Republican Party adopted her and attempted to sell her as a mainstream conservative, changing her campaign website and altering some of her policy positions for general public consumption.

The point is that extremists like Angle can only survive if given oxygen to breathe by the Republican political establishment. That establishment embraced Angle and poured millions into her campaign, despite the fact that she suggested it might be okay to shoot and kill elected representatives if all else fails.

I ask this: What would have happened to our politics if some adult in the leadership of the national Republican Party had stood up and declared Sharron Angle unfit to serve?

What would have happened if Karl Rove, whose American Crossroads spent more than $2 million on her behalf, had denounced Angle and said that her Second Amendment suggestion disqualified her from public service?

Finally, what would happen today if the Republican Party would tell Americans that the Second Amendment to the Constitution should not be read as sanctioning an unfettered right to gun ownership, and the GOP  will no longer be a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association?

America Is Not A Center-Right Nation—Just Ask Tea Party Leaders

Joe Scarborough, of Morning Joe, often talks about how America is a “center-right” nation.  And he often talks about how Barack Obama should recognize that fact and govern that way.  Here is a typical example from the other day:

…he’s got some great opportunities, but he’s going to have to come to the middle. And if he comes to the middle where America is—not the middle as defined by left-wing bloggers and other people. If he comes to the middle where America is, he’ll be just fine.

Well, Scarborough is a conservative Republican, so it’s understandable how he might project his politics onto the whole country, but he uses polling to support his point. He claims, based on a Gallup poll, that 40% of the public think of themselves as conservatives and only 21% call themselves liberal.

But since most people aren’t political junkies, and since it’s hard for even junkies to accurately define what it means to be a liberal or a conservative, the simple truth is that it is impossible to say the country—in whole or in part—is this or that based on what people tell pollsters.

And even if it were the case that one could call the country this or that politically, what does that have to do with how President Obama–or any president–should govern the country?  Is that Scarborough’s definition of leadership?  To simply lead people where they are already going? 

Thankfully, the Founders didn’t feel that way or we all might be speaking London Cockney today.  And thankfully Harry Truman didn’t feel that way or we might still have an all-paleface military to match our all-paleface Tea Party.

The truth is that our ideological national identity cannot be defined by what people tell Gallup or any other polling group about their ideological preferences. Over time, what it means to be a conservative or liberal has changed and keeps changing, and people just don’t keep up with the changes. 

I can make a good case that, if anything, the country is more center-left than center-right, just by noting what people who call themselves conservatives believe about ideas that used to be thought of as liberal ideas.

For instance, it’s no secret that conservatives abhor any hint of socialism, and frequently attack liberals for being socialists.  Yet, it’s obvious that you won’t find much support among conservatives these days for abolishing Social Security and Medicare.  And there is absolutely no doubt that those two programs represent the closest thing we have to socialism in America. They represent, to date, the crown jewels of liberalism.

And so it is that we have people who identify themselves as conservatives who often vigorously defend those socialistic programs and certainly won’t vote in droves for candidates who propose their demise.

Even Tea Party fanatics—the right wing of the right wing—won’t touch the socialistic programs.  Last night on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, a fascinating segment with four major Tea Party leaders revealed just how slippery the terms liberal and conservative are, as well as how unfocused the Tea Party movement is in general.  

Watch the following video clip and ask yourself just what the term “conservative” means, if uber-conservatives aren’t willing to acknowledge, not to mention abolish, socialism, as it is practiced in the United States:


It may be true that twice as many people call themselves conservative as call themselves liberal, but what that means is not as clear as people like Scarborough think.

As Lawrence O’Donnell demonstrated, when hard-core conservative activists either don’t see or don’t care that Social Security and Medicare are socialistic endeavors, then conservatism certainly doesn’t mean what it used to.

Rare Praise For The Tea Party

Since I have been more than a little critical of the Tea Party folks for tolerating and in some cases promoting racist elements associated with their rush to take us back to the 18th century, it’s only fair to praise them when they at least attempt to act like they live in the 21st.

Something called the National Tea Party Federation, which is trying to exert some leadership over the disparate groups of disgruntled people who have raised the temperature of our national politics, has kicked out one of the worst among them:  Mark Williams and the Tea Party Express.

Mr. Williams was the head of Tea Party Express, which as Politico pointed out, “has organized some of the movement’s biggest events, including rallies with former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin.” 

The Tea Party Express has also been closely tied to Sharron Angle’s campaign in Nevada, which, fortunately, has given Sen. Harry Reid new life out there.  In other words, the Tea Party Express is (was?) a big bleeping deal.

The NAACP had earlier urged Tea Party “leaders” to purge their ranks of those “who use racist language in their signs and speeches,” to which Williams replied with what he called a “satirical” letter that began:

Dear Mr. Lincoln

We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!

He continued with this:

Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government ‘stop raising our taxes.’ That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide-screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society? Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.

Believe it or not, that is just a sampling of the worst of Mr. Williams’ performances.  Check here for a rundown of the dumb stuff he has said, including calling the President of the United States an, “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.”

But despite the fact that it is a little tardy, the booting of Mark Williams and Tea Party Express is welcome news.  Someday, it may be possible to focus only on the misguided political philosophy animating the movement and not on the white angst that fuels so much of the anger behind it.

There Is Some Hope For Democrats This Fall

A few comments and an easy prediction related to last night’s primary results:

1. If disgruntled folks on the left—regrettably, including labor unions—want to get pissed off at moderate Democrats like Blanche Lincoln and threaten her, they had better be able to deliver.  They couldn’t.  Today, they’re much weaker, and much poorer.  And the Republican in Arkansas is still favored to win that seat.  Is a conservative Republican preferable to a moderate Democrat? 

Listen.  Many of us were angry at Lincoln, but, for God’s sake, we’re talking about Arkansas. There are no Martha’s Vineyard’s in Arkansas.

2. Thankfully, we now know that Sarah Palin—who resurrected South Carolina’s Nikki Haley from the dead and kept her breathing through charges of adultery—is the Queen of the Republican Party even as Rush Limbaugh is the King.  That gives hope to Democrats in the fall, but only if they run savvy campaigns.

3. Meg Whitman, Republican billionaire, will run against former two-time Democratic Governor Moonbeam*, Jerry Brown.  Interestingly, Ms. Whitman didn’t register to vote until seven years ago and appears to have a Palinesque knowledge of the issues.

Perhaps during the general election, Ms. Whitman will have to answer policy questions from journalists rather than hide behind campaign ads. Perhaps there is a crash course on politics for sale on eBay.  Certainly Whitman can and will outspend Brown (she’s already outspent him 200 to 1, spending a reported $80 million of her own dough), but can you hide your ignorance from California voters forever? We shall see.  And by the way, she was endorsed by Dick Cheney.  That has to go over well in California.

4. And why is it anyway that mind-bogglingly wealthy candidates like Whitman and Carly Fiorina (who will face California Sen. Barbara Boxer in the fall) are willing to spend so much of their own money just to be elected into government service?  Since the right-wing has forced nearly all Republican candidates into a reflexive I-hate-government-too stance, aren’t we entitled to ask what motivates rich and formerly powerful Republican women to seek….oh, I get it.  It’s the power.  Riiiight.

5. Easy prediction:  From today onward, Fox “News” programming—as well as all of talk radio—will launch a full-blown campaign to get Sharron Angle—who beat the chicken candidate Sue Lowden—elected to Harry Reid’s Nevada senate seat. All one needs to know about Angle is this: she was endorsed by rabid right-wing talker Mark Levin, Joe the Plumber, and the Tea Party Express.

If Nevada voters are serious about getting rid of Social Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS and the Department of Education, then they have a real choice in Sharron Angle.  As she said, “I am the Tea Party.”

And for an added bonus, she has made comments that would lead Las Vegas voters to believe she’s not a fan of alcohol and is uncomfortable with its legality.  Maybe it is time we think about bringing back Prohibition, especially in Vegas.  Gambling would be much more fun without all that darn alcohol around, right?

For a double-bonus special, after years of fighting the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, Nevadans can elect Sharron Angle because she wants Nevada to be “the Nuclear Energy capital of reprocessing spent fuels for the United States.”

This summer and fall are going to be fun for political junkies.

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*From Wikipedia:

As Governor, Brown proposed the establishment of a state space academy and the purchasing of a satellite that would be launched into orbit to provide emergency communications for the state—a proposal similar to one that would indeed eventually be adopted by the state. In 1978 in a Rolling Stone interview Linda Ronstadt called her then boyfriend, Jerry Brown, her “Little Moonbeam”. After this an out-of-state columnist, Mike Royko, then at the Chicago Sun-Times, nicknamed Brown “Governor Moonbeam” because of the latter idea. In 1992, almost 15 years later, Royko would disavow the nickname, proclaiming Brown to be “just as serious” as any other politician.

 

Left-wing Teabaggers?

Political purists on the left-wing of the political spectrum may end up doing what Republicans cannot do.  They may make our country safe again for conservatives.

Besides some of the intense criticism of Democrats coming from progressive places like Firedoglake and the HuffingtonPost, I have read complaints from liberals across the country.  Some folks in Massachusetts, who are obviously sincere, committed liberals and progressives (synonymous to me), are planning to sit out the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s senate seat.

However sincere, such inaction would bring to the United States Senate a bona fide teabagger.

All of us who have a strong opinion on just what philosophy should guide our politics are often frustrated by political leaders on our side who don’t always vote the way we want or even think the way we believe they should think.

And it’s easy to get aggravated at what’s going on now in Washington, no matter what side of the philosophical battle you are on.  Teabaggers are furious with what they perceive (obviously falsely) as a move toward socialism, a failure to act fiscally responsibly, and government control of individual behavior. 

While that is as nutty as can be, those on the other end of the spectrum are equally furious that the Democrats are selling out “progressive” principles by agreeing to various watered-down legislative initiatives to improve our society.  Although that sentiment is not exactly as crazy as the teabagging hysteria, there is a certain naiveté in the actions of some liberals, who are willing to abandon the Democratic Party out of disgust with its failure to achieve any or all progressive goals.

As I have written before, Barack Obama never was the radical liberal that the right-wing haters portrayed him to be both during the campaign and since taking office.  Anyone who has followed politics closely for some time and who listened intently to what Obama said last year on the campaign trail could see that more than anything else, the arc of Obama’s beliefs bent toward pragmatism not radicalism.

So, to the extent that committed liberals are surprised that Obama values compromise as a way to get something rather than nothing, they shouldn’t blame him or the Democrats for their own misperceptions or their own unrealistic expectations.  Democrats are no doubt in control of the federal government’s legislative and executive branches.  But liberal Democrats are not. 

Most Democrats, including the president, are trying to make something good happen despite the lingering effects of conservative poison that still affects much of our politics. Unfortunately, some of that poison is still being sold by Democratic legislators who have their jobs because they live in districts that largely reject wholesale liberal prescriptions for a better society.

In some such places, like Nebraska, the Democratic Party is fortunate to even have a U.S. Senator there, let alone one who is willing to vote for a reform package that isn’t perfect but is a start on a very long road to the kind of reforms all progressives want to see.

The problem is the current reform bill is not a revolutionary piece of legislation, in the reckoning of many liberals.  Rather than see the parts of the bill that were unthinkable a few short years ago, they have chosen to focus on the parts of the bill that represent what they believe is a “sell out” to the insurance industry.  In American politics, revolution comes incrementally, and wise advocates understand that truth.

No doubt, from a purist perspective, the final version of the health care reform bill will be highly unsatisfactory for most liberals. But to kill the current effort by refusing to vote for Martha Coakley in Massachusetts, or by incessantly talking up its shortcomings, is insane because it is self-defeating.

Coakley’s Republican opponent, Scott Brown, a Massachusetts state senator and benefactor of the Tea Party Express, has pledged to provide the final vote to support a Republican filibuster in the Senate and kill any chance to reform the health insurance system—maybe for another generation.  And how many other filibusters will his vote support that will kill legislation important to liberals?

By staying home out of frustration, progressives will in effect be endorsing the views of the far right-wing of the conservative movement, who will now—even in defeat—claim victory because they were at least “competitive” in the Northeast.

In other words, rather than helping to pull the plug on Neanderthalic conservatism, purists on the left may end up giving mouth to mouth resuscitation to Rush Limbaugh, who began his program today by noting that because of what is happening in Massachusetts, his brand of conservatism, à la Jason,  is back.

He followed later by boldly stating, “Obama has failed. His presidency is a failure.”

Only liberals can make that true.

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