The Tea Party Was The Big Winner Last Night

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

mitch mcconnell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will proudly support Mitch McConnell. 

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

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

And:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“You Are Not Required To Donate In Order To Participate But Your Contributions Give Us The Resources We Need To Accomplish Incredible Things On Behalf Of The Tea Party Movement”

At least once a day, and sometimes three and four times a day, I get an email from a right-wing group called TheTeaParty.net. The emails are nothing more than soliciting tools, designed to get me to part with my money and give it to people who say they are fighting, well, I’ll just give you the latest example:

_________________________________________________

Dear Patriot,

We are facing great danger, my friends; an enemy from within. When Barack Obama was sworn in as President, he swore to uphold and defend the Constitution. Instead, he is abusing the office of the Presidency punish those who they perceive as their enemies. Sign and share our petition to tell Congress to stop him!

We cannot do this without you. Fundraising in the beginning of the year started off great and we thought we could do this. This year we can take back our country with your help. For those of you who have stepped up and donated, we are so very grateful for all of those donations. However donations have fallen off and we cannot keep up the fight without them.  Please donate at least $5 if not $10, $20, $50 or $100 right now, then go onto signing this petition and sharing with at least 3 additional people!

Standing for the Constitution makes you an enemy in Obama’s eyes. Stop him!

Believing in personal responsibility makes you an enemy to Obama. Stop him!

Barack Obama has shown us what lengths he will go to in order to punish those he sees as his political enemies.

He has used the IRS to target, intimidate, and harass every day, patriotic, freedom loving Americans in an attempt to silence them into submission.

We must stand together against his flagrant abuse of presidential power. Stand with us today! Sign and share our petition to tell Congress to stop Obama’s abuse of power in targeting political enemies!

*You are not required to donate in order to participate but your contributions give us the resources we need to accomplish incredible things on behalf of the TeaParty movement.

Thank you,

Todd Cefaratti

Freedom Organizer

____________________________________________________

Yes, this freedom organizer needs resources in order to accomplish incredible things. Incredible, as in “impossible to believe,” is exactly right. It turns out that Todd Cefaratti is quite a marketing genius and has made a lot of dough by appealing to the worst fears of right-wingers who have more disposable dollars than sense. Here’s what the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights had to say about Cefaratti and his organization:

TheTeaParty.net, founded by Arizonan Todd Cefaratti, is largely a list-building money-generating machine. Cefaratti has a background in data harvesting, mining contact information and then reselling the leads to clients in the reverse mortgage industry.

The organization’s parent group, Stop This Insanity, Inc., was founded as a political action committee in Arizona in early 2010 by Cefaratti and Ron Dove, who became TheTeaParty.net’s treasurer and human resources manager. The PAC was terminated in November 2010, while it was in the process of losing a lawsuit with the Federal Election Commission. It also developed a bad reputation with other Tea Party groups after raising money ($469,000 between January and October 2010), and then not funding rallies or candidates.

Instead, a significant amount of the funds, $189,759, went to online marketing.

As you can see, most of the money that culturally frightened white people are giving to TheTeaParty.net is going into Cefaratti’s pockets or somewhere else other than to the causes dear to those who fear. But he’s not alone in using fear and white anxiety to make himself a pretty good living. There are plenty of grifters out there just like him:

A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national tea party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed.

The practice is not unusual in the freewheeling world of big-money political groups, but it runs counter to the ethos of the tea party movement, which sprouted five years ago amid anger on the right over wasteful government spending. And it contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians.

Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates, according to the analysis, which was based on campaign finance data provided by theSunlight Foundation.

The Post tells us where the dough is going:

Roughly half of the money — nearly $18 million — has gone to pay for fundraising and direct mail, largely provided by Washington-area firms. Meanwhile, tea party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, while their groups have doled out large sums for airfare, a retirement plan and even interior decorating.

The lavish spending underscores how the protest movement has gone professional, with national groups transforming themselves into multimillion-dollar organizations run by activists collecting six-figure salaries.

Three well-known groups — the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express and the Madison Project — have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle. Two other prominent tea party groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have devoted about 40 percent of their money to direct candidate support such as ads and yard signs.

Perhaps my favorite detail is the fact that the chairwoman of the well-known Tea Party Patriots, Jenny Beth Martin, whose mug ought to be familiar to anyone who watches cable news or C-SPAN, “sets her own $15,000 monthly fee for strategic consulting — payments that have totaled $120,000 since July.” Not bad, no? Except that’s not all:

She also draws a salary as president of the Tea Party Patriots’ nonprofit arm — gettingmore than $272,000 in the 2012 fiscal year, according to the group’s most recent tax filing.

Her twin salaries put her on track to make more than $450,000 this year, a dramatic change in lifestyle for the tea party activist, who had filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and then cleaned homes for a period of time to bring in extra money.

Now, you have to hand it to these people. To go from cleaning crappers for change to peddling bullshit for nearly half a mill a year is pretty impressive, sort of a fulfillment of the mostly mythical American Dream, except that most people don’t dream of bilking the gullible as a way out of bankruptcy.

Even though this is all very unseemly, I suppose those of us on the left should be happy that a lot of right-wing dough is being wasted this way. And I suppose that one shouldn’t feel too sorry for white folks who think Barack Obama is “an enemy from within” and are willing to throw money at anyone who will say it loudly and often.

But this isn’t one of America’s finest moments, no matter how you look at it.

Why Democrats Should Thank Phyllis Schlafly

Yesterday I thanked Bill O’Reilly for contributing to the chaotic mess that is now the Republican Party. Today I want to thank the venerable Phyllis Schlafly.

Schlafly, born right here in Missouri, will be 90 years old this year. She hit the national political radar way back in 1964, after writing a book supporting the candidacy of Barry Goldwater. Conservapedia—the right-wing version of Wikipedia—says that the book, A Choice, Not An Echo,

detailed how the liberal “Rockefeller Republican” wing of the Republican Party had manipulated the Republican Party’s choice of nominees in several elections to nominate people like Wendell Willkie and Dwight Eisenhower, and called on conservatives to rally against the liberal wing and offer a true conservative for the nomination.

Sound familiar? Yes. After 50 years these people are still fighting the Republican establishment. You gotta hand it to ‘em, they never give up!

By the way, speaking of Conservapedia (which calls itself a “trustworthy encyclopedia”), it was founded by Schlafly’s son, Andrew. Reactionary politics runs in the family.

File:Phyllis Schlafly by Gage Skidmore.jpgThe fight over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s made Schlafly famous. In 1972 she founded Eagle Forum, an anti-feminist, evangelical Christian, “pro-family” (!) lobbying group that does all it can to make the country safe for white people who vote Republican. A fact that leads me to why Democrats should thank her for her latest efforts.

Last year, after Republicans began talking—and so far it has all been talk—about being kinder to Latinos, Schlafly said on a conservative radio show that it was “a great myth” that Hispanics who come into the country would vote for Republicans. “There is not the slightest bit of evidence that they’re gonna vote Republican,” she said. Then she added:

The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes…the white voters who didn’t vote in the last election and there are millions of them. I think when you have an establishment-run nomination system, they give us a series of losers, which they’ve given us with Dole and McCain and Romney, and they use people who don’t connect with the grass roots. So, I think the propagandists are leading us down the wrong path. There is not any evidence at all that these Hispanics coming in from Mexico will vote Republican.

Well, well, well. So much is revealed in that short comment.

First, how strange it is that a “pro-family” evangelical Christian, leading hordes of other like-minded followers of Jesus, doesn’t really give a damn about Hispanic families because some significant portion of them might want to vote for Democrats. Is that what Jesus would do? Or is that only what GOP Jesus would do?

Second, because lots of folks out there still don’t believe the Tea Party-controlled GOP is consciously fashioning itself as the last refuge of white folks worried about their cultural dominance, Schlafly does us all a favor by making it clear what, or whom, the Republican Party stands for: “white voters.” In August of last year she came out in favor of Republican-enacted voting restrictions in North Carolina, the logic of which Miranda Blue of Right Wing Watch explained:

The new law is not politically motivated and won’t keep Democrats from voting, Schlafly claims…before adding that the law’s main virtue is that it is politically motivated and will keep Democrats from voting.

And if Schlafly had stopped there, she would have done enough to deserve the thanks of liberals and Democrats around the country for shining a bright light on conservative motivations. But nope. She makes another contribution to understanding what makes right-wingers tick, especially as the debate heats up in the Republican Party over what should be done about our broken immigration system. Eagle Forum has published a new report:

eagle forum immigration report

It should come as no surprise that Eagle Forum’s report reached exactly the same conclusions about immigration that Phyllis Schlafly had already reached. And I suppose it should come as no surprise that the Tea Party right has embraced those conclusions. The first publication I saw feature the anti-immigration report was National Review, which posted an article by Schlafly highlighting Eagle Forum’s America-shattering finding:

There is nothing controversial about the report’s conclusion that both Hispanics and Asians, who account for about three-fourth of today’s immigrants, generally agree with the Democrats’ big-government agenda. It is for this reason that they vote two-to-one for Democrats.

And that is what is driving the right’s nuttiness on the immigration issue. She says,

While it seems that much of the Republican-party leadership has not actually looked at the policy preferences of immigrants, everyone else who has looked at the polls comes to the conclusion that significant majorities of immigrants and their children are big-government liberals.

Mind you, Schlafly is not just talking about undocumented folks here. She is talking about all immigrants, those who come here legally and those who don’t. And she is talking about Latinos and Asian-Americans. But wait. Don’t go and get the idea that she is just picking on pigmented people here. She wants you to know that ain’t so:

Immigration in general — not race — is the issue. The limited data for other immigrants — including Europeans and Muslims — indicate that they, too, generally hold views well to the left of the average American voter. In fact, as discussed in our new report, for reasons largely outside the control of conservatives, immigrants and their children gravitate to left-wing parties in almost all Western countries. The problem for conservatives is not race or ethnicity but immigration as such.

So, you see? Race isn’t the issue at all, despite what she said last year:

The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes…the white voters who didn’t vote in the last election and there are millions of them.

Schlafly really isn’t fooling anyone, except those already fooled. This is all about the browning of America, a phenomenon that is increasingly driving white conservatives crazy, and a phenomeon that can’t be stopped, although Schlafly is adamant there is a way to stop it:

Our new report makes clear that for conservatives, there is no issue more important than reducing the number of immigrants allowed into the country each year. If legal immigration is not reduced, it will be nearly impossible for conservatives to be successful on the issues we care about.

If the Republican party is to remain a party that is conservative and nationally competitive, it must defeat amnesty and any proposed increases in legal immigration. Further, we must work to significantly reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country from the current level of 1.1 million a year. There is nothing inevitable about immigration. The level and selection criteria can be changed by Congress.

Looking at the political motivation of the groups pushing higher immigration and amnesty, it’s obvious that the Democrats promote large-scale immigration because it produces more Democratic votes. If the Republican party is to remain conservative and nationally competitive, it must defeat amnesty and proposed increases in legal immigration.

That last line, which was (accidentally?) repeated in those concluding paragraphs, is a problem for the Republican Party. The truth is that if the GOP wants to remain “nationally competitive,” it has to abandon the kind of conservatism that people like Phyllis Schlafly are promoting. And the so-called establishment Republicans, who are only slightly less extreme at present, know that, which is what makes this intraparty fight so enjoyable to watch.

And that is why I am grateful that this nearly 90-year-old conservative activist from St. Louis is still around to do her part.

[photo: Gage Skidmore]

A Tribute To The Splendor Of Government

David Brooks, the famous columnist for The New York Times, is one of my favorite conservatives. He is one of my favorite conservatives because, among his other virtues, he is not a Tea Party nut. These days you get bonus points for being both a conservative and politically sane.

Normally I find Brooks to be a thoughtful man of the right, even if I frequently find myself scratching my head and wondering, given all that the right has become in the age of Rush Limbaugh and Fox “News,” why such a bright man remains a man of the right. Then, every now and then, Brooks gives us a hint as to why he continues to fight on the same side that people like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul fight.

A few days ago, the Times published his latest column (“The Stem and the Flower“), his first “in three months” he told us, and if you read the piece closely, you can see why he persists in addressing us as a conservative.

He begins by asking this question:

How much emotional and psychic space should politics take up in a normal healthy brain?

He ends by answering:

I figure that unless you are in the business of politics, covering it or columnizing about it, politics should take up maybe a tenth corner of a good citizen’s mind. The rest should be philosophy, friendship, romance, family, culture and fun.

Hmm. How nice of Mr. Brooks to quantify for us how much of our mental resources should be devoted to politics. He may or may not have the number right. It might be a little more or it might be a little less. Or much more or much less. I confess I don’t have the slightest idea what a healthy dose of politics might be. I suppose it depends on where you stand, or maybe where you have fallen.

But what I do know is that rich people, especially in post-Citizens United America, can devote themselves to politics all day—every day—because their politically dedicated money never sleeps, even when they do. It never stops working for the political interests of its donors, even if those donors choose to spend time reading Nietzsche or, more likely, Nozick. While the rest of us, if we ever had the fleeting luxury of not worrying about our jobs or our health care or our children’s education, might be thinking about philosophy or about culture or about having fun, all the political money that wealthy people invest in politics and political advocacy would just keep right on working to make sure it accomplishes the mission it was sent out to do.

And Mr. Brooks, a very smart man, never bothers to mention that. He doesn’t bother to mention that our politics is distorted by the influence of moneyed interests. He ignores the fact that the policies our politics produces are often carved into puzzle-like shapes, pieces that when put together happen to nicely complete a picture of a society in which, increasingly, the rich get richer while most everyone else struggles for stagnation.

Yes, it would be nice if all of us had enough free time to enjoy philosophy, culture, and, for sure, having lots and lots of fun. But the truth is that most people have to work hard and hope that their job doesn’t get shipped overseas and that their health holds up long enough for them to enjoy, in their retirement years, the freedom to ignore politics.

As sad as it is that Brooks neglected to mention the primacy of money in our political system, that’s not really the most revealing idea in his column, in terms of why the non-Tea Party writer and thinker continues to call plays for the Republican Party offense. He writes:

We should start by acknowledging that except for a few rare occasions — the Civil War, the Depression — government is a slow trudge, oriented around essential but mundane tasks.

Imagine you are going to a picnic. Government is properly in charge of maintaining the essential background order: making sure there is a park, that it is reasonably clean and safe, arranging public transportation so as many people as possible can get to it. But if you remember the picnic afterward, these things won’t be what you remember. You’ll remember the creative food, the interesting conversations and the fun activities.

That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? He is right that people who go to the park for a picnic usually don’t remember the government’s role in maintaining it, or remember its role in creating and maintaining the roads or rails that got them there. That’s certainly true. But it’s also true that if the park were run down and dirty, if there were weeds everywhere and the roads were filled with potholes, or there were no public transportation available that enabled people to get to the park, then people would certainly remember that, wouldn’t they? They would remember government’s failures, if only because a willing gaggle of journalists would be eager to point out those failures, even to those who have never picnicked in a park or who would never want to.

What Brooks is saying is that if government does its job well, if it provides a public space that is readily usable, if it provides the infrastructure that makes public spaces and picnics in the park possible, then people will focus on the food and the fun. He’s right about that. But then he continues:

Government is the hard work of creating a background order, but it is not the main substance of life. As Samuel Johnson famously put it, “How small, of all that human hearts endure,/That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.” Government can set the stage, but it can’t be the play.

You can see how much sense that seems to make. Who among us thinks that government is “the main substance of life”? Or who would go to the theater just to see the sets on the stage? But when you think about it, when you think about picnics or plays, you can’t ignore how initially vital it is that there are such things as parks and theaters, park workers and stage hands, those resources that make “the main substance of life” possible. But Brooks strangely concludes:

So one’s attitude toward politics should be a passionate devotion to a mundane and limited thing.

No! An emphatic and comprehensive no! There is nothing mundane or limited about government. It is the greatest invention of mankind. Or, if you want, it is the greatest gift given to us by a God of Love. However we got it, government is an absolutely extraordinary thing that does deserve our passionate devotion. A thing so singularly marvelous, so thunderously important, that to call it mundane and limited is to call the civilization it supports mundane and limited. To call it mundane and limited is to exalt the wooden cart at the expense of the flesh-and-blood horse that pulls it.

To borrow Brooks’ reference, public parks, those green manifestations of the civilization that government makes possible, aren’t dull and ordinary places. And there’s nothing limited about them. They are themselves theaters in which Americans can write their own unpublishable scripts and act out their own unfathomable plays. They are places where children run and play, where kites are flown, where lovers meet, where books are read as people lounge on blankets tossed on soft, government-cut grass. Parks are open-air cathedrals where balls are thrown, songs are sung, sometimes in solitude, and Frisbee-chasing dogs make us laugh. They are common only in the sense that they are the commons, belonging to us all, and yet to none of us.

This particular government of ours, the one that provides us parks and peace, is a we-the-people government. Because of that fact alone it won’t do to call it mundane or limited. Given the history of humanity, our collective effort to govern ourselves is not ordinary. And we are limited only by the kind of vision of government that Brooks endorses, a vision that reduces government’s role to one that merely maintains “the essential background order.”

As I said, I like David Brooks. He represents the best of what conservatism has to offer. But I will leave you with a contradiction in his piece, a contradiction born of his need, as a man of the right, to push government into the background. Here is the penultimate paragraph:

So one’s attitude toward politics should be a passionate devotion to a mundane and limited thing. Government is essential, but, to switch metaphors ridiculously, it’s the stem of the flower, not the bloom. The best government is boring, gradual and orderly. It’s steady reform, not exciting transformation. It’s keeping the peace and promoting justice and creating a background setting for mobility, but it doesn’t deliver meaning.

It is here that we can see that Brooks’ Burkean view of government necessarily misses capturing the glory of the thing he is describing. He says that government is “the stem of the flower, not the bloom.” And he finishes by saying that government “doesn’t deliver meaning.” Yet, as his flower metaphor demonstrates, there would be no bloom without the stem. The blossom is not held up by some sort of ethereal scaffolding. It is held up by the stem, a real and splendid piece of essential architecture. The sturdy and stupendous stem does in fact deliver the bloom, and government, because it is the foundation of civilization, does therefore “deliver meaning.”

Government delivers meaning in the same way that a government-sponsored postal service delivers a letter from a loved one, in the same way a government-invented Internet delivers an email from a friend, in the same way a government-maintained park delivers Brooks’ “creative food, the interesting conversations and the fun activities.” Government, to be sure, doesn’t create meaning; it doesn’t write our letters or emails or cook up our food or conversations during a picnic of fun. But in a civilized world, in a world make possible by government, it makes all those things and, yes, even meaning possible.

Government is, indeed, a stem. It supports the many fruits of civilization. Without it, without that stem, this would indeed be a most barren existence. Without it, there would be no flowers. And maybe the biggest difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals aim to cultivate the blooms of civilization by making sure the stem is healthy and strong, by unapologetically championing and nourishing the human ingenuity that supports, or the miracle that sustains, that thing we call government.

“A Murderer Is Less To Fear” Or How Barack Obama Is Driving Right-Wingers Crazy

We’ve all seen it since 2008. They hate this man. They hate the President of the United States. And there is no sign that the hate will abate. In fact, it may be getting worse.

I received today an email from a group called TheTeaParty.net. The subject line shouted:

You are going to WANT to listen to this!

“This” was an interview of Rep. Pete Olson from, where else, Texas. He is lately famous for introducing “articles of impeachment against Attorney General Eric Holder for high crimes and misdemeanors,” as his official government website proudly boasts. Texas Pete’s resolution has 22 co-sponsors, including Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert. So, you sort of get the idea. These Obama-haters can’t yet impeach President Obama, so they are trying to impeach his pigmented friend at the Justice Department.

I visited the website of TheTeaParty.net, which brags about having “well over 3 million members and a huge national social media presence.” Yeah, well, I don’t know about all that, but I did find this tweet, which was posted just yesterday:

obama the traitor

Sure, we’ve seen this stuff before. Obama is a traitor, blah, blah, blah. But this one seems particularly vicious. “He rots the soul of a nation and works secretly to undermine the pillars of the city…” Really? Just whose soul is rotting here? And just who is working, not so secretly, to undermine the pillars of our civilization? Huh? In any case, you know what is left out of that Cicero quote? This:

A murderer is less to fear.

That’s right. The next line in that Cicero citation is “A murderer is less to fear.” Why did they leave that line out? Is it even too much for these Tea Party folks to say the President of the United States is worse than a murderer? Well, let’s see.

If you go to TheTeaParty.net website, you will find the usual nutjob fare: a “DEFUND Obamacare NOW” petition, a “Demand Full Benghazi Investigation” petition, and, yes, an “Impeach Obama & Remove Him From Office” petition (“President Obama is the most corrupt president in U.S. history”). These things are all designed to entice the haters among us and, more important, to separate the haters from their money. Conveniently you can donate to the cause.

But there was one petition that is more disturbing than the rest, even by the pitifully low standards of Tea Party groups out to make a buck. It’s called:

Show President Obama That He Is Not A King!

Now, again, we’ve all seen this sort of thing before. It’s the everyday kind of stuff on, say, the Rush Limbaugh Show. But this one goes a little deeper. While the Obama-is-a-traitor tweet left out the “A murderer is less to fear” line, this petition begins:

Untouchable. That is what President Obama believes that he is. If you’ve seen the movie “The Untouchables” that chronicles the days of Al Capone in Obama’s hometown of Chicago, then you will totally get this. Capone broke every law in the book, yet still viewed himself as untouchable. After all, he had law enforcement agents, attorneys, even judges bought and paid for. They towed the line and Capone beat the rap over and over again for crime after crime. Until, that is, a certain tax agent named Elliot Ness entered the picture. He was relentless in his pursuit of Capone and, when one of his men was murdered, the killer scrawled the word “Touchable” in blood on the wall.

Forget for a moment the fact that it was not Al Capone who was considered “untouchable.” It was the small group of feds trying to bring him down who were called the Untouchables. How could these Tea Party nuts muck that up? And forget for a moment the irony of having an anti-big-government Tea Party group extol the virtues of “a certain tax agent named Elliot [sic] Ness.” Ness wasn’t just a tax agent, he was first an agent for the Bureau of Prohibition, and if there ever was an intrusive government agency, it was that one. Besides that, the hero of this Tea Party story never did get Al Capone. It was really the IRS that brought him down. And Eliot Ness, according to one source, had a heart attack at age 54 and died “depressed, disillusioned and deeply in debt.” Oh, yeah, Al Capone allegedly found Jesus in prison. Yikes.

Anyway, forget all that. Look at the Tea Party image created so far: President Obama is a gangster who will not only kill his enemies, but taunt them with blood-scrawled writing on the wall. To these Tea Party-crazed people, “a murderer is less to fear” than our president.

Here’s a little detail from the petition:

The self perceived ‘untouchable’ Obama Regime has blood on their hands. They have the blood of the four men, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, on their hands since they sat back and did nothing while the torturous massacre at Benghazi occurred. They have the blood of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the hundreds of Mexican citizens killed by individuals wielding guns from the botched gun running Operation Fast and Furious on their hands. They have the blood of all those who were killed during the shooting initiated by the Muslim serviceman Nidal Malik Hasan who is still not prosecuted under Eric Holder’s Department of (In) Justice. The fact that the Obama Regime refuses to answer questions surrounding these avoidable, tragic situations is an insult to the American people and those victims who died in these incidents…

Add in his thuggish threatening of journalists Bob Woodward, Lanny Davis, and a reporter with the National Journal and we have a presidency ripe for the investigation of a special prosecutor!

You can see now why Attorney General Eric Holder is under attack by at least 23 Republicans in the House and, if the impeachment resolution ever came to a vote, likely many more. If you read the press release introducing the articles of impeachment drawn up by Texas congressman Pete Olson, you will find some of the same references as in the Obama-is-Capone petition:

During his tenure, Mr. Holder refused to cooperate with a congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious and the resulting death of a Border Patrol agent, refused to prosecute IRS officials who unlawfully disclosed private tax records to third party groups, and misled Congress about his involvement in the investigation of a journalist…

At least Rep. Olson had the decency to leave out not only the “A murderer is less to fear” quote, but also the Al Capone reference. I guess these days that’s saying something. But there is no mistaking one thing. These teapartiers are full of hate for this president and most everyone around him. Congressman Olson and his House friends, Michele Bachmann and Louis Gohmert and the others who co-sponsored that Eric Holder impeachment resolution, may have dressed it up in slightly kinder legislative language, but at its base it is still “Show President Obama That He Is Not A King!”

And do it all in the name of Cicero and, uh, Elliot [sic] Ness.

Sometimes Liberals Overreact Too, And Miss The Real Problem

So, I tune in to HuffPo today and on its famously sensationalistic front page I find this:

richard cohen headerWow! I thought. Who the heck did that at The Washington Post? So, I clicked on the link and found this headline:

Richard Cohen Writes Yet Another Racist Column

Dammit, Richard! Can’t you behave? Didn’t you learn anything the last time, and the time before that? Liberals are very sensitive about such things and you should know better.

Because I don’t often read Cohen’s columns, I thought I would at least pay him the courtesy of reading his “racist column,” before I pronounced him a racist. That’s fair, isn’t it? I mean, even though the mothership of left-leaning news and opinion aggregators has pronounced him a bad guy, I want to be fair and see why that is. I’m funny that way.

It took me only one sentence to find out how HuffPo missed the boat on Cohen’s column. The most offensive thing in the piece had to be the parenthetical in the opening sentence:

The day after Chris Christie, the cuddly moderate conservative, won a landslide reelection as the Republican governor of Democratic New Jersey, I took the Internet Express out to Iowa, surveying its various newspapers, blogs and such to see how he might do in the GOP caucuses, won last time by Rick Santorum, neither cuddly nor moderate.

Chris Christie is a “cuddly moderate conservative”? Are you kidding me? Can you see how awesomely awful that description is? There’s not really much of anything cuddly or moderate about Christie’s ideology, as we have previously discussed on this blog, but compared to a non-cuddly and non-moderate nut like Rick Santorum, he looks that way to some observers. I sort of understand the reason for that spasm of false relativity among straight news reporters—they like the guy a lot—but for left-leaning columnists, calling Christie a moderate conservative represents an unacceptably distorted view of the landscape.

Just because the right-wing of the Republican Party is moving further and further into both absurdity and obscurity, doesn’t mean that rigid conservatives like Chris Christie get to be called “moderate.” I’ve also recently heard people refer to Ronald Reagan as a moderate conservative, a description that is also false. Trust The Erstwhile Conservative on this one, richard cohenbut as one of the Gipper’s biggest fans in the old days, I didn’t cheer him on because he was a moderate. Just the opposite. Even though he had to, of necessity, make deals with Democrats, he remained a die-hard conservative at heart. So, it’s just plain wrong to put the word moderate in the same sentence as either Reagan or Christie. And the editors of HuffPo, if they wanted to go after Cohen, should have criticized that gaffe.

But nope, the focus of the sensational headlines was Cohen’s alleged racism. Well, let’s take a look at the offending passage, cited in the HuffPo story (and, by now, widely excerpted and criticized all over the leftish sites):

Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

These comments were labeled “incendiary” by HuffPo. Huh? Incendiary? Hardly. The worst thing about this paragraph, when it is read in the context of the entire column, is that he definitively, without any qualification, says, “Today’s GOP is not racist.” We know for a fact that some fraction of the GOP is racist, although no one thinks the entire party is. But that’s not the point. Some liberals, as far as I can tell, are calling Cohen a racist mostly because of his use of the phrase, “People with conventional views,” which, they say, is wrong because conventional views on interracial marriage have changed. The HuffPo piece cites a Gallup poll showing 87 percent approval for such marriages (30 years ago it was at 43 percent; 50 years ago it was less than 10 percent).

Now, I don’t see how misusing the term “conventional” makes one a racist, and even a cursory reading of the column should have made it clear to anyone that Cohen is attacking the Tea Party and its anachronistic views: “If this is the future of the GOP, then it’s in the past.” And Cohen ends his piece with some advice to Chris Christie about not becoming a Tea Party guy who could win the rabidly conservative Iowa caucuses because then the “Joisey” governor would become “anathema to the rest of us.”

There wasn’t a damn thing racist about Cohen’s column. Essentially he is discussing what I have often labeled “white cultural angst,” the feeling among conservative Christian palefaces that they are losing their traditional stranglehold on the country. When Cohen says these folks don’t much recognize the country these days, he’s right about that and he’s not a racist for saying so.

But even though there was no racism in the column, there was something very offensive about it, at least for anyone who has looked at Christie’s conservatism objectively, without comparing it to the worst elements of his party. The offense is in assuming that a President Christie would hold policy positions that would be all that different from your average teapartier. Besides Christie’s record, as evidence for my claim I submit to you the following famous quote uttered in 2011 at that annual gathering of wingnuts known as the Conservative Political Action Conference:

If we don’t run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we’ll lose.

That wasn’t some milquetoast moderate who said that. It was the female version of Rush Limbaugh, the mean-spirited, liberal-hating Ann Coulter. She later told Fox, her home away from home, “I don’t care if [Chris Christie] wants to run, his country needs him, it appears.”

That was in 2011. Now, I admit that it is hard to take Ann Coulter seriously as a pundit, but many right-wingers love her, which is why they have made her wealthy by buying her books, and why Fox frequently books her as a guest on TV and radio. Thus, she makes noise in the right’s echo chamber that some hear as music, even if it’s mostly chin music. In any case, Coulter’s love for Christie wasn’t just a whim in 2011. In May of this year—this year, after the 2012 Christie-Obama love fest that pissed off nearly every teapartier in the country—she had this exchange with Sean Hannity on the radio:

COULTER: I’ve told you before: I have eyes only for Chris Christie.

HANNITY: Your buddy Chris Christie is out there sucking up to Obama this week. Don’t defend him.

COULTER: There seems to be a concerted movement by both liberals and conservatives to lie about Christie and make him seem more liberal than he really is.

Ann Coulter may be a lot of things, a lot of unseemly things, but she knows that Chris Christie, should he get elected president, would favor the kind of conservatism that Ted Cruz would love, especially if Christie governed with a Republican House and Senate. Oh, I know that lately she has fallen out of love with the New Jersey governor (she tweeted in June, “@GovChristie’s dead to me”) and withdrawn her support, but to further prove my point, look who she supports now:

coulter on cruz

Case closed. If Ted Cruz and Chris Christie are both suitable candidates for a liberal-hater like Ann Coulter, then obviously there are no significant ideological differences between them. And if Richard Cohen deserves any criticism from the left for his recent column, it is for assuming Chris Christie is some kind of moderate conservative we can all live with.

Because a lot of folks would find it very hard to live under President Christie and a Tea Party-dominated House and Senate.

The Triangulation Has Begun

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

—Mitch McConnell, November 7, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Photo:Getty Images]

What’s The Matter With Kansas? Nothing That An Election Can’t Fix

Way back in February of this year there were signs. Public Policy Polling began a piece on a survey conducted in Kansas, my old home state, this way:

Sam Brownback is one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. Only 37% of Kansas voters approve of him to 52% who disapprove. He meets with near universal disapproval from independents (22/66) and Democrats (14/81), but what really drives his numbers down is that even among Republicans just 55% approve of him to 30% who disapprove. 

Now, for those of us who have been witnessing the race to the bottom in Kansas—engineered by Tea Party fanatics in the state—that poll in February was good news. But the news is even better now because Democrats have a gubernatorial candidate who is turning heads in the Sunflower State. A poll conducted by SurveyUSA found:

Sam Brownback, who has served in Kansas as a Congressman, U.S. Senator, and now Governor, is in danger of being unseated after one term…Today, the Democratic ticket of Paul Davis and Jill Docking edges the Republican ticket of Brownback and Jeff Colyer, 43% to 39%.

Can Paul Davis actually win? Should Democrats even dare to dream that big? Well, the SurveyUSA pollsters also found that Brownback’s approval rating is a meager 34%. If it remains that low, maybe the dream can come true.

Another poll (“Kansas Speaks 2013″) conducted by Fort Hayes State University found that only 33.9% of people who voted in 2012 are “very” or “moderately” satisfied with Governor Brownback’s performance, while a whopping 45.5% are either “very” or “moderately” dissatisfied.

And satisfaction with the Tea Party-controlled Kansas legislature is worse. Of those who voted in 2012, only 27.3% are “very” or “moderately” satisfied with their lawmakers, while 44.4% are “very” or “moderately” dissatisfied.

Until the 2012 election, there were moderate Republicans in the Kansas Senate who would occasionally work with Democrats to keep the Tea Party zealots, who dominate the House, from burning the government down. However, the Koch brother-funded zealots knocked off enough moderates—and that is a relative term; they were pretty damned conservative—in 2012 to take control of the entire state government, with Brownback as the Chief Zealot.

Perhaps the major reason there has been a turnaround in public opinion is due to education funding in the state. Here is a recent headline from The Topeka Capital-Journal:

kansas education cuts

Public school funding has become a major issue in Kansas. A district court in the state ruled in January that the way the Tea Party extremists, led by Brownback, went about cutting income taxes and shortchanging public schools last year was unconstitutional, a decision that has been appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.

And Paul Davis, the House Minority Leader who is currently leading Governor Brownback in the polls, has made the Tea Party’s stingy education funding a big part of his gubernatorial campaign. As the Topeka paper point out, Davis,

has said the district court appropriately acknowledged the governor’s “tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations directly conflict with our constitutional obligation to fund public schools.”

Davis’ message may be resonating. Here is a graph from the “Kansas Speaks” survey:

education funding in kansas

As you can see, even 50% of “strong Republicans” favor increasing education funding for K-12. That’s a big bleeping deal. (And almost 40% of “strong Republicans” favor increasing funding for higher education.)

I know—I know—it is way too early to get excited about all this. I know we can’t be the least bit confident that a majority of Kansans will next year decide to reject Tea Party governance. But, dammit, at least we have some hope.

For those of us here in Missouri, we have our own zealots to worry about. Earlier this month, Rex Singquefield, who is Missouri’s version of a gazillionaire Koch brother, wrote a glowing article on the alleged success of Kansas’ cut-taxes-on-the-wealthy-and-they-will-come experiment. The Forbes piece (“How Kansas Governor Brownback Schooled Missouri On Tax Cuts, And Showed The Region How To Grow”) has Singquefield saying:

Just one year later, a close look at the data backs up the economic projections of Brownback’s visionary leadership. Lower income tax rates have in fact stimulated the economy by reducing the price both of work and conducting business in the state, not to mention that lower rates have predictably proven effective when it comes to luring out-of-state businesses to Kansas’ friendlier business environment.

Singquefield’s “close look” at the data is so close that no one with normal vision can see it, unless, of course, they want to see it even if it ain’t there. I think that’s called hallucinating, or something akin to it. Whatever it’s called, Steve Rose, writing for the Kansas City Star, isn’t buying it:

Sinquefield claims the Kansas economy has been stimulated since the tax cuts.

Wrong. The Kansas economy is tracking most of the rest of the nation. There has been no discernible jolt upward.

Sinquefield also says that lower tax rates have “predictably proven effective when it comes to luring out-of-state businesses to Kansas’ friendlier business climate.”

What we do know is corporations have moved from Missouri to Johnson County and vice versa because of generous tax incentives that have nothing to do with Brownback’s income tax cuts.

One year later, what we also know is from July through September, revenue to the state coffers has declined by $135 million, or a 9 percent drop from last year. The Legislature’s research staff projects that there will be a net reduction this fiscal year of a half billion dollars and a billion dollars by 2018.

Rose admits that it is “way too early” to know if the tax-cutting “experiment” in Kansas will eventually do what the zealots claim, but he says:

What we do know so far about the experiment, besides sharply declining tax revenue, is that Kansas is short-changing schoolchildren because legislators decided to cut taxes rather than to restore reduced funding to public schools, and that choice may be coming home to roost.

As I said, at this point we can only hope he’s right.

Don’t Bomb The Hospital

As I have been watching the embarrassing and dangerous spectacle going on in Washington, several things have come to mind.

First, it has taken since 2009 to get our economy out of a very deep ditch into which ideological zealots—believers in supply-side economics and anti-regulatory policies—helped drive it. And the economy got out of the ditch without much help from conservative Republicans, who instead have done a lot to get in the way of those who, like President Obama and congressional Democrats, have been trying to fix what the zealots helped break.

Second, as everyone knows it was the unfortunate election year of 2010 that allowed Tea Party types to take over the House of Representatives—and cause much mischief in the Senate—and make a mockery out of governance. What isn’t well known, though, is the significant damage the hostage-taking strategy employed by teapartiers has done to the economy. Look at this graphic I saw on MSNBC this morning:

900 000 jobs lost

That’s nearly a million Americans who could be working but aren’t because of the fiscal madness that right-wingers have engineered since the Tea Party came to power. The source of that statistic is from an independent forecasting firm called Macroeconomic Advisers that did a study for the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which is, as HuffPo described it, “one of the tireless deficit scolds encouraging Republican behavior.” 

In other words, a group of folks who have aided and abetted the scare-the-bejesus-out-of-the-public tactics of deficit-obsessed right-wingers have now figured out that the zealots really do mean to take down the economy, if Democrats don’t meet their demands. That says something important about what is going on.

Joel Prakken, who prepared the report for the Peterson Foundation, wrote:

Partisan divided government has failed to address our long-term fiscal challenges sensibly, instead encouraging policy that is short-sighted, arbitrary, and driven by calendar-based crises. Based on this report’s findings, we can assert confidently that the crisis-driven fiscal policies of the last several years have damaged our still-struggling economy. One can only hope that our policymakers will implement more sensible policy in the future.

Hope? Is that all we’re left with? We hope the zealots won’t blow up the place? Think about that for a minute. Isn’t it enough that their obsession with our long-term debt—not to mention ObamaCare—has ignored the short-term problems we face and made things worse than they should be?

As HuffPo notes:

Macro Advisers estimates that the austerity of recent years has cut GDP growth by 0.7 percent and cost 1.2 million jobs already.

Isn’t that enough? On top of that misery and on top of the previous job-killing manufactured crises, do they now have to bomb the economy with a default on our obligations and cause even more, and more profound, pain?

Thus it is that we have austerity instead of stimulus and we have dysfunction instead of cooperation. All of which leads me to something simple I have observed that is related to what is going on in our nation’s capital.

For more than a year now, a very large hospital has been under construction near my house. This hospital—825,000 square feet and costing $335 million—is a replacement for St. John’s Regional Medical Center, which was destroyed in the 2011 tornado here in Joplin.

I have driven by the construction site countless times and I am always amazed at the complexity of such an undertaking. From the complicated funding of the project to the meticulous design to the massive excavation to the magic-like construction going on right now, all are products of the human mind and will.

Someday, all that painstaking planning, all that astonishing ingenuity and craftsmanship on display, will result in a state-of-the-art facility that will, in most cases, help sick people get well. And in doing so it will provide many jobs for doctors and nurses and accountants and janitors and other support staff. An awesome thing, when you think about it.

But it occurred to me that years from now, when the hospital is operating and its employees are doing their best to help the sick, some zealot with a bomb and a grievance can destroy in seconds what took years to build.

And that leads me back to what is going on in Washington, where, I suppose, we all must continue to hope that the zealots will put away their bombs and settle their grievances with government—an institution designed to “promote the general welfare”—another way.

[hospital photo: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette]

How Democrats May Be Encouraging Hostage-Taking Politics

Over the weekend, a Tea Party posse took down barricades at the World War II Memorial and marched to the White’s House and dumped them, all the while appearing as if they were ready to jump the fence and lynch the Scary Negro who happens to live there. The reason these folks, some proudly waving Confederate flags, were so angry at the Scary Negro is a) because he is scary, b) because he is a Negro, or c) both.

Post image for Palin And Confederate Flag Rally Tea Party Vandals Piling ‘Barrycades’ At White HouseIf logic ruled the minds of these teapartiers, their anger would be directed at Republicans, who have shut down the government, including the World War II Memorial, and are threatening, really threatening, to sabotage the full faith and credit of the United States. But logic does not rule and lots of Americans are embarrassing themselves and the country.

The Tea Party posse, eventually clashing with Capitol police, were encouraged by both Sarah Palin and the comes-with-a-penis version of her, Ted Cruz. Palin told the crowd of veterans she was using as a political prop:

This is the people’s memorial. Our veterans should be above politics.

The penis version of Palin, who has been playing a dangerous game with the debt ceiling, told the folks:

Our veterans should be above politics. Enough games.

Besides Palin and Cruz, one of the speakers at the triggering event, misnamed the “Million Vet March on the Memorials” because a million vets didn’t show up, was a man named Larry Klayman, founder of reactionary groups Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch. He said to an approving crowd:

We are now ruled, quote, unquote, by a president who bows down to Allah. This president is not a president of “we the people.” He’s the president of his people. I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.

Klayman, who obviously has lost his mind, is one of those right-wing ideologues who tends to hate the Washington establishment, no matter who the establishment happens to be at the time, but the Scary Negro particularly drives him and his fellow travelers nuts. And they will really go off when, finally, a deal is cut to reopen the government and preserve the nation’s credit integrity, all without doing any damage to ObamaCare.

As things stand right now, the establishment faction of the hostage takers is still demanding that Democrats bless their austerity mania, expressed now through the economy-damaging sequester. And these Repubicans are saying that since they have pretty much given up on destroying ObamaCare, that Democrats should let them have their way on the budget.

As I write, Democrats, who pledged not to negotiate with the hostage takers, are in fact negotiating with the hostage takers. That is a mistake, at least right now. Once Democrats made it clear several days ago they were willing to negotiate over opening the government and raising the debt ceiling, the pressure then shifted to them to make a deal. Thus, if no deal happens, Democrats will get a lot of the blame, which will tempt Democrats to make a bad deal.

And that pressure on Democrats to make a deal, bad or otherwise, is being manifested via a new narrative going around. This new narrative was first created by Republicans, but has been picked up by reporters and pundits. It goes like this: Democrats are trying to take advantage of the unpopularity of the Republican shutdown and are now “overreaching” by refusing to agree to a deal. MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell today was pushing the idea that Democrats may be overplaying their hand and that “the president is not blameless, as far as the American people are concerned.”

In an earlier show on MSNBC, I saw Dee Dee Myers, who worked for Bill Clinton, and Robert Gibbs, who worked for President Obama, also talk about how Democrats might be in some political danger, if they don’t give Republicans an honorable way out of the mess they have made. Myers suggested that Democrats may “over-read” and “over-interpret” recent polls that show Republicans are losing the PR battle.

Well, the problem is that Democrats have already given too much. Republicans in the Senate are essentially demanding that the ridiculous sequester cuts, which exist because of the last hostage crisis created by Republicans, become the norm. To try to prevent the latest hostage crisis, Democrats previously agreed to the sequester budget numbers, which are hurting the economy and many people in it, for a short period of time. But that wasn’t good enough. Republicans wanted more. And they will keep on wanting more as long as Democrats are willing to give it to them because, alas, the hostage taking is working on some basic level: Republicans are slowly starving the government and quickly destroying people’s faith in it.

I understand the dynamics of what is going on here. I understand that in order to avoid the catastrophic effects of a failure to raise the debt ceiling, Democrats may have to allow Republicans to claim they got something for their trouble. But as I learn the contours of the deal now being brokered in the U.S. Senate—which still may not be acceptable to the Boehner Nuts in the House—I am at a loss to explain just how the deal is ultimately good for the country, which, last time I checked, is why we send politicians to work in Washington in the first place.

The problem is this: Republicans have shown no sign of compromising on budget issues, particularly when it comes to raising revenues sufficient to fund a government that won’t fit into Grover Norquist’s bathtub. Thus, we will be right back here again at some point in the future. Democrats will be forced once again to make a decision about negotiating with the hostage takers or letting Republicans shoot them, or, as in the present case, cut off a couple of fingers.

I can’t help believing that if Democrats had simply stuck to their original narrative—that they will be glad to talk with Republicans after they open the government and pay the nation’s bills—that the country, in the long term, would be better off. Why? Because in the end I can’t imagine the leaders of the Republican Party, no matter how feckless and irresponsible they are, allowing the country to default on its obligations and then suffering the perhaps permanent ignominy that would accompany such an action.

All of which would have meant that we would have been done, once and for all, with hostage-taking politics. As it is, if a deal is made that Boehner will put on the House floor, it looks like the political extortion will continue.

[photo credit: Whitney Waters]

Barack Obama: Republican Savior?

“We’re not going to pass a clean debt limit increase.”

—John Boehner, October 6, 2013

Clearly, as MSNBC’s Chuck Todd and others suggested this morning, Republicans have poll-tested the word “conversation,” as applied to the sad impasse in Washington. John Boehner used that word around twenty times during his squirmy 14-minute appearance on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. I took the time to string together his use of the word in order to demonstrate how desperate the Speaker now is:

…we asked to sit down with the Senate and have a conversation…that the leaders will sit down and have a conversation…We’re interested in having a conversation…it begins with a simple conversation…It’s about having a conversation…It’s time for us to sit down and have a conversation…Let’s sit down and have a conversation…It’s not their fault that the leaders in Washington won’t sit down and have a conversation…The president is saying, I won’t negotiate. I won’t have a conversation…Even though President George Herbert Walker Bush had a conversation about raising the debt limit…The nation’s credit is at risk because of the administration’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation…And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us…And the president is putting the nation at risk by his refusal to sit down and have a conversation…My goal here is not to have the United States default on their debt. My goal here is to have a serious conversation about those things that are driving the deficit and driving the debt up. And the president’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation about this is putting our nation at risk of default…The president canceled his trip to Asia. I assumed — well, maybe he wants to have a conversation…I’m willing to sit down and have a conversation with the President…I’m not going to raise the debt limit without a serious conversation…I’ve been willing to sit down with the president and have this conversation...George, I’m ready for the phone call. I’m ready for a conversation...

That’s about one and a half per minute! How embarrassing was that appearance? How weak is this Speaker? How dumb is he? Or, rather, how dumb does he think we are?

Republicans in the House started all this madness with a weird jihadist desire to defund and destroy ObamaCare, then they said they would settle for delaying it, and now they say all they want to do is talk to Democrats, or to put it in the revealingly passive construction favored by Boehner, “have a conversation.”

Yikes. John Boehner is a pitifully puny leader whose desperation is apparent to all, except maybe himself. And what he is really asking President Obama to do is to bail him and his Tea Party friends out of a jam, a dangerous jam that threatens to wound the country for a generation or more.

How ironic it is that establishment extremists in the Republican Party need the Scary Negro in the White’s House to make some kind—any kind—of “deal” to get them off the hook and save them from Ted Cruz and the other anti-establishment extremists in the GOP.

How delicious it is that Barack Hussein Obama holds in his socialist, Kenya-birthed hands the fate of the Grand Old Party, which would surely suffer incalculable damage from the economic disorder and chaos its members say they are about to bring upon Americans.

Speaker Boehner confirmed—yes, he confirmed—Stephanopoulos’ characterization of a Treasury Department report saying that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be “unprecedented and catastrophic,” that “credit markets could freeze,” that “the value of the dollar could plummet,” that “U.S. interest rates could skyrocket,” that “the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world,” and that “there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse.”

Stephanopolous asked Boehner, “Do you agree with that assessment?” And the Speaker replied: “I do. And the President is putting the nation at risk by his refusal to sit down and have a conversation.”

Yes, it’s all in the President’s hands. If he would only sit down and talk it would all be over. It’s that simple, said Boehner. Except, of course, it isn’t.

We all know that establishment Republicans are hoping that the President, at the last minute or before, will swoop in with some concession and save them from themselves, from their cowardice, from their failure to stand up in force to the Tea Party nuts they have so willingly used to endlessly attack the President since his election in 2008.

Political pundits are fond of talking about the extremism of a “small” group of Tea Party Republicans in the House. But these pundits rarely make the point that it is Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Roy Blunt and other establishment players that make possible the antics of teapartiers. Establishment Republicans are deathly frightened of what Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity will say about them if they dare to loudly and publicly call out the extremism and stupidity of the anti-establishment zealots that are leading their party, and possibly the country, to ruin. So, they need Barack Obama’s help.

And the President should not help them. I repeat: he should not help them.

Establishment Republicans should do the dirty but necessary work themselves or else risk sullying their party’s name and reputation for years, and elections, to come. A Democratic President should not be the savior of an out-of-control Republican Party, many members of which don’t give a damn about the welfare of the country if it means abandoning their ideological Allah.

The American people finally, if painfully, need to find out what has happened to a once-proud political party, the party, for God’s sake, of Abraham Lincoln. And Americans, many of whom are still suffering from the foolishness of Republican economic philosophy, need to know just how far this very non-Lincolnesque party is willing to go in service to a very strange and destructive god.

Three Things Democrats Should Say To The Ideological Terrorists Among Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It is not going to happen.”

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

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

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

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

“It is not going to happen.”

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

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

Pundits, Pesticide, And The President

This morning, after the President’s press conference in Russia, I watched a few liberal pundits on MSNBC criticize Obama’s demeanor during his exchange with reporters, including his lack of enthusiasm, and so on. The idea was that the President doesn’t seem all that convinced about his own decision to attack Syria. Presumably for these folks, the President’s leadership style is much too thoughtful and not forceful or decisive enough for their tastes. He’s too professorial, don’t you know. He should be the cheerleader-in-chief.

Now, I’m used to hearing those criticisms from right-wingers, who seem to value more “manly” decision-making, which to them requires less thought and more knee-jerking. But I never thought I would live long enough to hear liberals implicitly long for Bush-like decisiveness, which decisiveness was pregnant with a false but, apparently for some, comforting certainty.

Such decisiveness and certainty resulted in things like, say, the attacking, defeating, and occupying of Iraq, which we were told with utter certainty was not only necessary (turns out it wasn’t), but would bring us much good will in the Middle East (turns out it didn’t). Even though the Iraq war, from its pretenses to its promises, was a colossal mistake, at least, dammit, Bush was certain and decisive and forceful!

When it comes to making decisions on the use of force, I’ll take the thoughtful, get-it-right-the-first-time style of Barack Obama, no matter how much it irritates people on the right—or left. Thus, fed up with listening to liberals whine about the President’s leadership style, I thought I would at least get a taste of the big league whiners. So, while on my way to Fox, I stopped by CNN and found a Tea Party town hall being conducted by the one and only Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who represents Old South Alabama in the U.S. Senate. He was trying to explain, to hard-headed teapartiers like himself, the dynamics of what is going on in Syria and Congress. And, of course, it is all President Obama’s fault because he is a weak leader:

If President Bush had told Bashir Assad, “You don’t use those chemical weapons or you gonna be sorry, we’re coming after you, this will be a consequence you will not want to bear,” I don’t believe he would have used them (raucous applause)…People didn’t see strength in the President’s red line…

Sessions, echoing what I heard liberals on MSNBC say minutes before, called Obama an “uncertain trumpet.” Well, if it is certainty that people want, they should go to a once-saved-always-saved, Bible-believing Baptist church and confess their faith in Jesus and live happily ever after, however long the after is. Then they can say things like the following, which was said by a town hall teapartier immediately following Jeff Sessions’ put down of Obama and his praise for the leadership qualities of George W. Bush:

I stand here and I listen to you and, uh, and I sure hope that in those secret meetings that you have good intelligence…but…I’m not sure it was a chemical weapons attack. I think it was a pesticide attack. I think that the al Qaeda could get a hold of pesticides. It was not consistent with a chemical weapons attack. The emergency people came in there too quickly. They would not come into an area with poison gas residue all over the place. I read a very interesting analysis of this, and I think it was setup to get the United States to come in there and do al Qaeda ‘s dirty work.

But here’s my question: You have something that none of us here have. You have a megaphone. You have a platform. You have a microphone. But my question to you is I’ve seen this president…crossing one red line after another, you know, fraudulent birth certificate—everybody knows that his documents are a fraud, everything about this man is secret, nobody knows anything about Obama, nothing! Gays in the military, gun-smuggling to the Mexicans, getting Mexicans killed, getting Americans killed…He violates the Constitution in that he has a duty as the President of the United States to enforce the laws of the United States. He’s refused to enforce the immigration laws. He’s refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed by Bill Clinton for heaven sake’s [sic]. This man has violated so many, he’s crossed so many red lines, and now Syria.

And my question [sic] is, What do you think is the red line for Barack Obama? When is the United States Senate, when are our representatives going to say that he’s gone too far and stop this man? As a U.S. Senator, do you feel like you personally are incapable of doing anything to stop him? Or do you feel like you’re capable of doing something to stop him, and if so what is that? Thank you very much (loud applause).

To which Jeff Sessions replied:

It is sad that…such a large number of people have lost confidence in the President, his integrity or his willingness to lead…

Yes, it is sad. And what is sadder is that a United States Senator is part of the problem, part of the reason that ignorant and ill-informed and conspiracy-crazed Americans, like that poor Tea Party fool in Alabama, can feel comfortable in standing up and saying such stupid things and expect only the mildest of rebukes from a Senator who has so much to say about leadership:

But you know I can’t agree with all of those things. I don’t think they’re probably factually correct, all of them. I just don’t think that’s true, some of them. I do believe that from the day we saw his Supreme Court nominations, his own statement that, uh, he wanted judges to do “empathy,” and basically that’s saying you want judges not to follow the law but to do whatever feels good at the time…They do not respect the rule of law as the President of the United States should…[blah, blah, blah]

Jeff Sessions had been criticizing President Obama’s leadership style, he had been talking about how weak Obama is, how that leadership weakness allows bad things to happen. Yet the Senator couldn’t stand up to a freak at his town hall freak show and say to him, “Look, pal, what you said was crazy. It was nuts. You’re an embarrassment to the Republican Party. Stop reading those wacky right-wing conspiracy websites and stop spreading this crap at my town halls.” Now that would have been real leadership.

The “pesticide” conspiracy theory espoused by that Tea Party nut was undoubtedly related to the larger conspiracy going around—promoted by Rush Limbaugh and others using the writings of an Israeli-American political scientist named Yossef Bodansky—that President Obama may have helped plan the chemical attack on civilians in Syria on behalf of al-Qaeda rebels. Here is a typical headline from a true-believing, Christian website called Sword At-The-Ready:

Obama Regime Armed Al Qaeda-Rebels To Use Chemical Weapons In Syria

Now, it appears to me that the pathetic, brainsick individual at Sessions’ town hall was trying to imply what that headline states outright and what the accompanying article articulates:

Obama has been and is engaged in arming Jihadists in the Middle East, our avowed enemies. Evidence is mounting that not only did Obama arm the Jihadists in Syria with heavy weapons from Benghazi, the Obama regime helped plan the chemical weapons attack near Damascus.  A tactic the Bosnian Muslims utilized in their civil war to get the UN to bomb the Serbs.

In the process of helping radical Islam in raising up the black flag over secular dictatorships, Obama emasculates the United States and destroys it’s reputation among the world’s nations.

If you consider Obama’s agenda is to destroy the country and raise up his utopia over our ashes – much of what Obama has been doing and demands to do – makes sense.

It’s not incompetence, this is all deliberate.

Sword At-The-Ready says it is,

dedicated to the presentation and discussion of Conservative American Principles in light of the Scriptures, Our True History, Culture and Politics.

You get it: there is a culture war/civil war going on between people of fundamentalist-quality faith and everyone else, especially our diabolical leader, Barack Hussein Obama.

It’s too bad that among the nuts, even though he isn’t quite as nutty as the nutty people attracted to one of his town halls in Wetumpka, Alabama, is Jeff Sessions. This man sits in, uh, the world’s greatest deliberative body but he couldn’t bother to—or worse, didn’t want to—call out someone who doesn’t believe the President is a citizen and who suggested that he is involved in a pro-al Qaeda plot in Syria.

So much for leadership.

For the record, CNN cut away from the town hall shortly after Sessions began his reply to the gullible Tea Party conspiracist guy. And later in a story reporting on what happened at the Sessions town hall, the gullible Tea Party conspiracist guy wasn’t mentioned, nor was Jeff Sessions’ inadequate, leadership-less response. Thanks, CNN.

jeff sessions townhall

In Defense Of Lois Lerner

You’d think she killed somebody.

Lois Lerner, who on Wednesday invoked her right against self-incrimination, is being attacked, by nearly everyone in the country who knows who she is, for her role in the IRS v. Tea Party “scandal,” which, of course, isn’t quite a scandal yet, but Republicans keep trying. Some of the most vicious attacks are coming from Constitution-loving right-wingers, who can’t believe Lerner would actually use something other than the Second Amendment to protect herself.I Have Not Done Anything Wrong: IRS Official Lois Lerner Invokes 5th Amendment Right

MSNBC’s conservative gabber, S.E. Cupp, who provides a damn good reason not to watch that network’s afternoon show “The Cycle,” took to tweetin’ yesterday to say,

So, Lois Lerner is either a coward or a criminal, right? Tell me where I’m wrong.

Apparently, S.E. Cupp studied the Constitution at the Rush Limbaugh School of Law, which ought to be enough right there to tell her where she’s wrong.

And speaking of Professor Limbaugh, he said about Ms. Lerner:

Okay, let me tell you what happened today at the IRS hearings. Lois Lerner, who ran the whole kit and caboodle and was… By the way, this was the first time I had a close-up look at her. This is an angry woman. You have to be very careful in making judgments about people based on physical appearance, although I’ve gotten really good at it. I can spot people out there and I can tell you who the libs are pretty much by just what I see. But, in this case, I already know that she is.

I already know that she’s a liberal, I know that she is in the same mode as Barack Obama, and now I know this is a woman who’s angry…This is a woman obsessed with the Christian right, Lois Lerner. This is a woman obsessed with religious people.

Okay. So, from two popular conservative commentators (there are a thousand more to choose from) we know that Lerner, by refusing to testify, is an angry, Jesus-hating woman who is either a criminal or a coward. All because she dared to avail herself of a constitutional right. Hmm.

The honcho of the Republican National Committee, the insufferable Reince Priebus, himself issued a Tweet regarding his discussion with Sean Hannity about this mess:

…it’s lawlessness and guerrilla warfare and Obama is in the middle of it.

Yikes! Obama is a gorilla, uh, guerrilla!

In any case, Priebus, appearing on Morning Joe today, commented on Lois Lerner’s right-invoking committee appearance:

You don’t need to plead the Fifth if you have done nothing wrong…

Obviously, Priebus also attended Rush Limbaugh’s law school. Even though he was aggressively challenged by Morning Joe regular John Heilemann, Priebus didn’t back down. In Priebus’ strange and disordered mind, pleading the Fifth is tantamount to an admission of guilt, don’t you know. Damn those Founders!

But right-wingers aren’t the only ones saying such stupid things. This morning on Morning Joe, which prejudicially carried a graphic characterizing Lerner’s brief statement as “defiant,” I heard Andy Serwer, managing editor of Fortune magazine, for God’s sake, say this:

What an unsympathetic position. We just saw her pleading the Fifth. This is something that mafia chieftains do in front of Congress, not public officials, not someone from the IRS. Obviously everyone just wants to know the real story, we want her to come clean. How bad could it be? I’m sorry, “You need to tell what’s going on here,”  and, you know, to just do otherwise is just ridiculous, and the IRS is just going to continue to be a piñata. And obviously is not’s just right-wing groups who are upset with this, but every American citizen should be upset with this.

Mafia chieftain? Wow. So much for presumed innocence. I remind you that the man who said that is a, gulp, journalist.

Well, I may be the only one in the world who has sympathy for this woman, but I can’t help it. I still happen to believe in the noble and once-American concept of innocent-until-proven-guilty. And I really do believe in the Constitution, which also includes the Fifth Amendment’s right to remain silent should someone try to compel any person “to be a witness against himself.”

Republican legislators, who, like all Tea Party-drunk conservatives, claim to love, cherish, and lustily sleep with the Constitution, were upset on Wednesday when Ms. Lerner invokedLois Lerner her Fifth Amendment right just after she made a plea of innocence and after Darrell Issa, headhunting chairman of the House’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee, talked her into authenticating a document.

I watched as Trey Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor who now represents right-wing folks in South Carolina’s 4th congressional district, forgot that he was not in a federal courtroom but at a congressional hearing and insisted that Lerner “ought to stand here and answer our questions.” Uh, she was actually sitting at the time, but then, hey, maybe being a former prosecutor and current zealot entitles one to demand that witnesses stand during the inquisition. Heck, why not go the whole way and roll out the rack? Bones cracking would make good TV.

But that’s beside the point. Gowdy said of Lerner,

You don’t get to tell your side of the story and not be subject to cross-examination.

Whoa, cowboy. Settle down there. (Some folks in the gallery were applauding at Gowdy’s prosecutorial grandstanding, and Issa did nothing to stop them, by the way.) Lerner didn’t actually tell her side of the story. There’s a lot of story to tell, if she ever tells it, and she didn’t even come close with these words:

I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee. And while I would very much like to answer the committee’s questions today, I’ve been advised by my counsel to assert my constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this hearing. 

After very careful consideration, I’ve decided to follow my counsel’s advice and not testify or answer any of the questions today. Because I’m asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I’ve done something wrong. I have not. One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amendment is to protect innocent individuals, and that is the protection I’m invoking today.

After initially and correctly telling everyone that they should respect Lerner’s Fifth Amendment right without prejudging her, Issa later put on his big-boy Tea Party pants and now agrees with Gowdy and others who believe she lost her constitutional right not to incriminate herself. He’s going to call her back to appear again. Whoopee! More good cable TV to come!  Maybe next time they really will crack her bones!

As with so many things in this litigious world of ours, there are at least two sides of this Fifth Amendment “controversy.” There are those lawyers who think she did not waive her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by offering a brief statement of her innocence. Of course, those lawyers did not attend the Rush Limbaugh School of Law, so what do they know?

And, of course, as Reince Priebus indicated, this all comes back to President Obama. Conservative Republican Joe Scarborough said on MSNBC this morning,

Why is the president allowing this to go on? This IRS story is another great example of just sheer incompetence at the White House to get their story out in a clean, effective way…

Yes, the Prez should simply strip Ms. Lerner of her constitutional rights, force her to tell Darrell Issa what he wants to hear, and then impeach himself after it’s all done. That, and only that, will satisfy the mob.

Finally, the truth in all this just may be found in a little article on The Daily Beast published today. The story quotes a man who used to hold the same position Lois Lerner now holds:

“It was inevitable something was going to happen,” said Marcus Owens, who served as director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division from 1990 until he retired in 2000. That was the same year that the 1998 IRS Restructuring and Reform Act was implemented, ushering in, he said, a culture of disorganization and miscommunication.

“Virtually all IRS executive positions were re-aligned and re-evaluated and a lot of field offices positions were eliminated. The channels of communication between field offices and the Washington headquarters were muddied,” Owens said. “Instead of having clear, hierarchical oversight, Cincinnati was given the responsibility to handle things that would normally be handled by the better-equipped Washington office.”

He went on to say,

“This is a case of funding problems and management problems. Everyone is thinking that the IRS was hunting down conservative organizations with bloodhounds or something when what they were really doing was opening the morning’s mail… The IRS is really a collection agency for the government. Tax returns that generate revenue must be accurate, but those that don’t generate revenue receive less attention,” he said. “That’s just the way it is.”

I doubt very much if we hear a lot from Marcus Owens or hear a lot about the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998. But we should. (By the way, only two U.S. Senators voted against that bill, including that great progressive, the late Paul Wellstone, so that ought to tell us something.) The likelihood that we won’t hear much about Owens or that 1998 law tells us something very important about the state of journalism these days, perhaps something more important than a prominent journalist going on TV and comparing a Fifth Amendment-invoking IRS employee to a “mafia chieftain.”

_____________________________

[photo credit: Getty Images (top) and AP (bottom)]

Cruz And The Crude

It’s no secret that to many—many—on the right, the late Andrew Breitbart, who before his passing had become one of the crudest of the crude conservatives, is their folk hero, an anti-establishment crusader and truth-teller.

Now, Breitbart cultists have another hero and his name is Ted Cruz. And unfortunately for the country, Ted Cruz is a United States Senator.

Here is a headline from Breitbart.com on Thursday:

SUPERSTAR SENATOR CRUZ GIVES TRIBUTE TO BREITBART

At a party for right-wing bloggers, Cruz called Breitbart “a great and fearless leader.” Let’s pause here to remember what Breitbart, the great and fearless reactionary leader, said at a Tea Party event in September of 2011, about six months before he died:

I’m under attack all the time…the death threats and everything. And so, there are times where I’m not thinking as clearly as I should, and in those unclear moments, I always think to myself, “Fire the first shot. Bring it on.”

Because I know who’s on our side. And they know that. They can only win a rhetorical and propaganda war. They cannot win. We outnumber them in this country, and we have the guns. So — [Laughter.] I’m not kidding. They talk a mean game, but they will not cross that line because they know what they’re dealing with. [...]

You know, these union thugs. These public sector union thugs — I’m just waiting — bring it on. [...]

Katie Couric. What if we went to Katie Couric’s house? What if the tea party showed up at Katie Couric’s and scared the living crap out of her teenaged kids? And that’s what they do because they know the mainstream media won’t cover it.

And so, there’s just a part of me that wants them to walk over that line.

In the mind of Senator Ted Cruz, that passes for leadership, for “great and fearless” leadership.

As far as Cruz’s own leadership prowess, since he has been in the Senate—not yet three months—Cruz has managed to find communists at Harvard, has suggested that a former Republican Senator and now our Secretary of Defense traded his patriotism for thirty pieces of North Korean and/or Saudi Arabian silver, and most recently has argued that shutting down the government over the defunding of ObamaCare is a real possibility.

Now you can see why he admires Breitbart so much.

Cruz’s words at the right-wing bloggers’ party were short but inspirational for those gathered:

I want to collectively remember our friend, and a toast to Andrew Breitbart. [Cruz drinks from a beer bottle.] A great and fearless leader, and we all carry on with his unshakable, fearless spirit to speak the truth to power, and the more they quiver, the better job we’re doing. God bless you.

Quiver? The more they quiver? That’s not only directed at you and me, my progressive pals, that’s directed at the Republican establishment. The goal of Cruz is to make us all—those who don’t share the devolving vision of the Tea Party—think twice before crossing them.

As Breitbart said, they “have the guns.” Indeed, they do. And speaking of guns, by now you have all seen the encounter Ted Cruz had with Senator Dianne Feinstein on Thursday during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a proposed assault weapons ban (which passed the committee, but only with Democratic votes).

Sen. Feinstein responded to Cruz’s juvenile demagoguery (for instance, comparing the banning of books with the banning of some assault weapons) with “I”m not a sixth grader, Senator,” and then, along with her Democratic colleagues, began to school the Harvard-educated lawyer from Texas, most notably with the following from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Yale grad who earned his law degree from Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia:

It is hard to imagine that it would be a violation of the First Amendment for somebody to yell fire in a crowded theater but it’s not a violation of the Second Amendment to prevent somebody from bringing a hundred-round magazine into a crowded theater in a Aurora, Colorado.

Touché.

The point of what Cruz did, as intellectually inept and dishonest as it was (he knows that Antonin Scalia’s opinion in the Heller case completely supports what Democrats are trying to do), was to scare the kakashka out of Republicans who might be thinking about voting for any of the gun legislation percolating in Congress.

And scared they are. Because of the filibuster in the Senate and the Tea Party in the House, it is unlikely that any major new gun laws will get passed. Which, wherever Andrew Breitbart is resting or roasting, will bring at least a momentary smile to his bloodless or blazing face.

Finally, because I am such a fan of the comment section of the various right-wing sites, I want to present to you some comments I found on Breitbart.com related to its coverage of the Cruz-Feinstein exchange. These commenters are why Ted Cruz and other right-wing demagogues can have such $ucce$$ doing what they do, and why they won’t $top doing it. You really should read them all to get an understanding of how far right, not to mention unhinged, the core of the Republican Party is:

breitbart comments

Whatever The GOP Is Doing Ain’t Working

republican democrat party poll

tea party poll

Shyst!

“Let’s just call Beck and Limbaugh FreedomWorks’ whores and be done with it.”

Crooks and Liars

I don’t know how many of you out there caught the following from Media Matters, but it is just too sweet to ignore:

Former FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey says the conservative outlet that helped launch the Tea Party paid Glenn Beck at least $1 million last year to fundraise for the organization, an arrangement he said provided “too little value” for the money. 

“The arrangement was simply FreedomWorks paid Glenn Beck money and Glenn Beck said nice things about FreedomWorks on the air,” Armey, the former House majority leader, told Media Matters Friday. “I saw that a million dollars went to Beck this past year, that was the annual expenditure.”

Armey, who left the organization this past fall after a dispute over its internal operations, said a similar arrangement was also in place with Rush Limbaugh, but did not know the exact financial details.

I urge you to follow the Media Matters link and read it all. And if anyone out there, and I am talking to conservative lurkers, doubts that much of the conservative movement these days is nothing more than a vehicle for shysters to, well, shyst and enrich themselves, then, as usual, scribble your doubts in the margins of a $100 bill and send them to me.

I will get back to you with more evidence in due time.

2014 Election Is Crucial For Unions

As Republicans in Michigan continue the nationwide right-wing assault on labor unions—the Republican-dominated legislature just passed a falsely descriptive “right to work” law—we, those of us sympathetic to unions and their political friends in the Democratic Party, need to remember how we got to this point.

The 2010 mid-term elections represented a terrible triumph of reactionary forces in America. The Tea Party movement, born partly as a result of white people’s irrational fears over a black Democrat in the White’s House, helped put a lot of extremist conservative Republicans in both national offices and, more important in terms of attacking unions, in state offices.

Michigan, traditionally one of the friendliest states in the union for unions, was lost in 2010 to the anti-union zealots, many of whom have business ties that make them reactive enemies of collective bargaining and union power. One of those with business ties is the governor, Rick Snyder, a former business executive. No surprise, after initially seeming to be uninterested in passing right-to-freeload legislation, he most likely will now sign the bill.

My point here is that the 2010 elections should teach Democrats a lesson. The energy and effort that was put into the election and reelection of President Obama needs to be replicated in the off years, as that is when the party in power is most vulnerable to insurgency.

Here are the turnout rates for the 2008, 2010, and 2012 elections, as provided by the United States Elections Project:

voter turnout in us and michigan

As you can see, general enthusiasm for participating was down in 2010, the year the Tea Party insurgents began their assault on labor, and, according to a report by CBS News, exit polling indicated that lack of enthusiasm hurt Democrats more:

Core Democratic groups stayed away in droves Tuesday, costing Democratic House candidates dearly at the polls. 

Hispanics, African Americans, union members and young people were among the many core Democratic groups that turned out in large numbers in the 2008 elections, propelling Mr. Obama and Democratic House candidates to sizable victories. In 2010, turnout among these groups dropped off substantially, even below their previous midterm levels. 

Voters under the age of 30 comprised 18 percent of the electorate in 2008 and nearly 13 percent in 2006 but only made up 11 percent of the electorate in 2010. The share of voters from union households dropped from 23 percent in 2006 and 21 percent in 2008 to 17 percent in 2010. African Americans made up 13 percent of the electorate in 2008 but fell to 10 percent in 2010. Such apathy likely cost the Democrats House seats as voters in each of these groups cast ballots for Democratic House candidates by at least 15 point margins.

It will be along road to unseating those right-wingers, in Michigan and elsewhere, who won seats in 2010, but the effort started with this year and it needs to continue in 2014, or else more damage will be done to unions and thus to working people.

Journalism, Liberalism, And The Deal

There are very few liberal voices heard on television news, particularly cable television news. Very few. Oh, there are a few liberals here and there, but few liberal voices.

To support that assertion, and, more to the point, to demonstrate how mainstream journalists ignore the liberal voice, I give you an example related to the so-called fiscal cliff negotiations. I will excerpt a tiny part of the opening segment from this morning’s “Jansing and Company,” an MSNBC program hosted by award-winning journalist Chris Jansing.

The segment featured two of her regular guests, Dana Milbank, a liberalish columnist for The Washington Post, and Jackie Kucinich, a political reporter for USA Today, and the daughter of uber-liberal Dennis Kucinich. The topic, and title of the segment, was the “Fi$cal Cliffhanger,” and Jansing introduced a clip of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who had appeared on Meet the Press on Sunday:

JANSING: When it comes to cuts, especially on Medicare, you know that whole conversation has to be had. Here’s what Dick Durbin said on Meet the Press:

DURBIN: I do believe there should be means testing. And those of us with higher income in retirement should pay more. That could be part of the solution. But when you talk about raising the Medicare eligibility age, there’s one key question–what happens to that early retiree? What about that gap in coverage between their workplace and Medicare?

JANSING: Jackie, are Democratic getting away with giving away less on this deal?

I’ll stop it right there because neither Jackie Kucinich, to whom this ridiculous question was addressed, nor Dana Milbank, bothered to point out how ridiculous a question it was, mainly because they, as Washington insiders, buy into its premise.

And that premise is that for people like Chris Jansing, it’s all about “this deal.” It’s all about the mechanics and politics of this deal. For her, and for most journalists covering this sorry episode in American history, what matters is who wins and loses the political game, not who wins and loses as part of what the political game is supposed to resolve.

In other words, few journalists are actually focused on what the wheeling and dealing is about, in terms of its potential effects on real people. And because journalists like Chris Jansing are fixated on the political deal-making mechanics (“are Democrats getting away with” ), they don’t see that they are perpetuating a false equivalence: that Republicans protecting wealthy constituents are morally on a par with Democrats protecting an old-age health insurance program that non-wealthy people depend on to live out their lives in relative security.

Go back and look at Jansing’s intro to Durbin’s argument against raising the retirement age for Medicare:

When it comes to cuts, especially on Medicare, you know that whole conversation has to be had.

Who says it has to be had? And, if it has to be had, who says it has to be had right now? You know who says that? Republicans, particularly Tea Party conservatives in Congress. The public isn’t clamoring for it. In fact, the latest poll from National Journal found,

a full 79 percent of those surveyed want the fiscal-cliff negotiators not to cut the program at all.

Do you know how hard it is to get almost 80% of the people to agree on anything? And it’s not just Democrats in that poll. It’s Republicans, too. So, it’s clear that the enthusiasm for cutting Medicare doesn’t come from the American people but from right-wing politicians and pundits.

And television journalists, because they like to cover a good fight (and perhaps because most of them don’t worry too much about what it would be like doing journalism in their old age), push as unquestioningly legitimate the Tea Party thirst for cutting Medicare (extending the eligibility age is most certainly a cut), as if quenching that thirst is the price Democrats have to pay to make any deal over the fiscal cliff a “fair” deal.

And the fact that some Democrats are stepping up to protect Medicare from some intolerable cuts is not morally equivalent to a demonstrated Republican willingness to protect rich constituencies by threatening the country with fiscal peril. That’s what we are talking about here. Republicans forced this fiscal cliff nonsense on Obama last year by holding the country hostage over the debt ceiling.

And even if they were to momentarily concede defeat on the issue of raising tax rates for the wealthy, it is only because they see another opportunity to force Democrats to help them do nasty things to Medicare: the debt ceiling will come up again in a couple of months and they have expressed willingness to hold the country hostage again to get what they want.

And what conservative Republicans actually want is for Democrats to get in bed with them as they do nasty things to Medicare. Republicans can read the polls. They know how unpopular what they want to do to Medicare is. And by playing the game the way they are playing it—which means journalists will cover the game (“this deal“) and not their motives—they hope to achieve a diminution in value of a program they have long hated and long wanted to reign in, if not outright kill. And they hope to achieve it with Democratic cover, as Democrats realize some changes need to be made to keep the program solvent.

Republicans, of course, claim they want to “save” Medicare. Hardly. That’s even laughable. Republicans have already demonstrated that they don’t want it to survive in its present form by voting en masse to voucherize the program (the first Ryan budget plan). And they have demonstrated that they want to dramatically shift Medicare costs to the less affluent (the second Ryan budget plan).

Thus, instead of focusing on the tactics or strategy in the political game, what Jansing and other journalists should be asking is this: What really motivates Republicans, as they appear so willing, so often, to hurt the financial and economic standing of the country?

“As Christianity Fades, The Birth Rate Falls And Third World Immigration Surges”

The White establishment is now the minorityThe demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore.”

—Bill O’Reilly, November 6, 2012

y now we’ve all noticed that some of the adults in the Republican Party are talking about the party doing some soul-searching, making it more appealing to women, Latinos, young people, and, yes, even African-Americans.

These Republican grownups, folks like political gurus Steve Schmidt and Mike Murphy, realize the electorate is changing before their eyes and know that Republicans have to change too.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Not only are the extremists in control of the Republican Party not going to change—can anyone imagine Rush Limbaugh embracing immigration reform, for God’s sake?—it makes no sense for them to change, given what it is that really animates most of them.

There are two major forces that serve to energize the base of the Republican Party today. One is fundamentalist or quasi-fundamentalist religion, which is waging war against Constitution-blessed secularism. The other is an increasingly acute cultural anxiety over the browning of America.

Those two forces meet and merge in the mind of Pat Buchanan, who wrote three years ago:

In what sense are we one nation and one people anymore? For what is a nation if not a people of a common ancestry, faith, culture and language, who worship the same God, revere the same heroes, cherish the same history, celebrate the same holidays, and share the same music, poetry, art and literature?

…The European-Christian core of the country that once defined us is shrinking, as Christianity fades, the birth rate falls and Third World immigration surges.

You see, to people like Pat Buchanan—I give him credit for honesty—a diverse nation is not a nation at all. True Americans must all have European blood and belief. All others represent an existential threat to the country.

About one-half of all American children under five have Buchanan skin, a fact that makes Buchanan’s thin cultural skin crawl. And there is evidence that Americans are slowly embracing the secular nation that our Constitution establishes.

Thus it is that those in the Republican Party who care deeply and disturbingly about the threat to the “European-Christian core of the country” —those misguided but earnest folks who nominated Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, for instance—are not going to tolerate any talk of moderating the party’s positions on the social issues.

The Republican Party platform in 2016 will look much like it did this year, a document that reeks of uncompromising extremism, such as the party’s stance on reproductive rights and the status of homosexuals. The party primary process will continue to produce extremist true-believers who honor that extremist document.

Because people who are moved by faith and fear, folks who are on a mission from God or who are defending their waning cultural dominance, will not be deterred by an unfavorable election outcome. They will not be coaxed or coerced into compromise by people in their party who don’t share their enthusiasm for lost-cause crusades.

So it is that we will continue to see Tea Party-types dominate the Republican Party until such time that there is nothing much left to dominate, at least on the national scene. Republicans will always have a voice at the local and state level, even a voice in the Congress, but with uncompromising crusading conservatives in charge of its national prospects, it will one day become irrelevant as a governing national party.

When that happens, when the browning of America forces Republicans into waging only regional and state and local battles, then perhaps the adults can take the party back.

And America would be all the better for it.

How Obama Can Win The Debate And The Election

It’s simple really.

The Obama campaign—with the help of the mainstream press—seems to have moved away from the one thing that was working against the slippery Mittens and was giving them a comfortable lead in the polls: the guy is a radical conservative who will radically transform the country into something only the Tea Party could love. Period.

They need to stop trying to paint the guy as a flip-flopper—everyone can see that by now—and tie him directly to the Republicans in Congress, particularly the Tea Party contingent, which he has supported in every conceivable way, including picking one of the most extreme VP candidates—and Tea Party favorite—in history.

Here, look at this graph from Gallup, published a month ago:

Look at those low, low, low numbers for Congress. Who could run against that bunch and lose? All Obama has to do to execute the winning strategy is to put the focus on extremists in Congress, including highlighting legislation that has come out of the Tea Party Republican House (as well as some that has come from Senate Republicans, like the radical Blunt amendment, which Romney was against before he had to backtrack), and then tie Romney’s flip-flopping body to that stake and watch him burn.

The President can point to some of the more extreme wackos in Congress—there is a rather large crop from which to choose—and ask the country: Do you want a president who will make these extremists even more powerful? Do you want to see Michele Bachmann and Allen West on your TVs every night, as they wield real power?

The president should say something like this during Tuesday’s debate, which I offer the campaign free of charge:

If you think Todd Akin is nuts, if you think his mind is frozen in Iron Age ignorance, then I’ve got news for you. There are a bunch of Republicans in the House who are as strange as he is. And Paul Ryan—who Mitt Romney chose to be his running mate— is one of them. He voted with Akin on a bill that originally tried to redefine rape, the old definition not quite good enough for these people. Ryan is as far right on the issue of a woman’s right to choose as Todd Akin. He really is that wildly far right. Yet Romney picked him to sit in the White House and help him make decisions, decisions that will affect you and your daughters.

Have you ever heard of Congressman Steve King? He’s an extremist nut from Iowa. Never mind that he doubts I am an American. Never mind that. Among other crazy, extremist things, he has suggested that states should still have the right to stop couples from having access to contraception. Yes, here in 2012 he thinks that. And Congressman King backed up Todd Akin recently and even added that he had never heard of a child getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest. Never heard of it.

And you can go on his website and find out that he would force women “requesting” an abortion—even women who were raped—to undergo ultrasounds “and review the life within her.” I’m not making that up. He would use government force to require women to do that. Go there and look for yourself. He’s serious. He’s deadly serious.

And you know what? Mitt Romney endorsed this guy! About this wacky congressman, about this Tea Party nutjob, Romney said, “I want him as my partner in Washington!”  Partners. That’s what you are voting for if you vote for Mitt Romney. A partner with extremists in Congress. Make no mistake about it.

In fact, the entire Republican Party has been captured by such people as Steve King. People like him run that party. Just a couple of days after Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments, the Republican Party voted to put in its official platform a provision that would prevent women who are raped or who are incest victims from choosing whether to have the rapist’s baby. They would force a woman, perhaps a relative of yours, to bear the child of her attacker. Do you really want to put these people in charge of the government? Huh?

And as for the economy. Things are turning around despite the fact Republicans in Congress all joined together in an effort to sabotage the economic recovery. They have admitted that. That’s not controversial. They got together on the night of my inauguration and plotted how they might keep me from getting this economy repaired and have a second term. I’m not kidding. I’m not making that up. You all need to know how extremist this bunch in Congress is. So extreme as to jeopardize the well-being of the country just so they can get complete control of it.

And as far as entitlement programs go, you all heard what Governor Romney thinks of half the country, you know, when he was standing in front of fat cats in Florida.  He thinks people don’t want to take care of themselves. He thinks half of the population wants to be dependent on government, even people who have earned their benefits, even people who worked hard for them and are truly entitled to them. He thinks that. He said that. And you know who else thinks that? Tea Party Republicans in Congress. That’s what the whole Tea Party movement was about, remember? Do you want these folks in charge of the government? Do you want these people, most of whom have never cared all that much for our safety net, deciding the future of Social Security and Medicare? Huh?

And finally, as far as foreign policy and national security goes, we have kept the country safe. We have taken down much of al Qaeda’s leadership, including bin Laden. I got us out of Iraq and I am winding down the war in Afghanistan. But you know what? That’s not good enough for some of these extremists in Congress. That’s not good enough for Governor Romney. They want us to get more involved in Syria. You’ve seen them on television. You’ve seen them say we’ve got to do more. They want to start a war—yes, I said it—they want us to start a war with Iran, before we have even given the punishing sanctions we put in place time to work. That’s what they want and that’s what they will get if you put them in charge.

Governor Romney has surrounded himself with advisers who got us into the mess in Iraq. You want more of that? Some in Congress, even the Governor himself, seem to want us to stay and stay and stay in Afghanistan. You want to keep troops there for another ten years? Huh?

Another adviser to the Romney campaign has called on Congress to authorize war with Iran. That was after the Republican leader in the Senate called for the same thing. I’m not kidding. He wanted a vote on the authorization of force against Iran. The leader of Republicans in the United States Senate called for “a more forceful approach.” More forceful.  What does that mean except war? Another Romney adviser, who worked for George W. Bush as U.N. ambassador, is not only itching for a war with Iran, he has suggested that Israel use nuclear weapons! Again, I’m not kidding. 

There are people in Congress who would have us in wars all over the place. They want to drastically increase our defense budget, even while giving tax cuts to rich people and cutting aid to the poor here at home. And the only thing stopping them right now is you, you the voter. That’s it. If you elect Mitt Romney, if you put him and Paul Ryan in charge, you are putting the Tea Party in charge of the entire government. And all of them are hell-bent on taking us back to a time when people were begging in the streets. A time when folks didn’t have the health care they needed. They are hell-bent on getting us back into protracted wars in a strange part of the world.

Look. I’m not going to BS you. If you give me another four years, there are some tough choices that have to be made, both here at home and across the sea. We do have to cut spending even more than I have already. We do have to address the long-term entitlement problems. And we do have to consider seriously whether we want to start a war with Iran, should the sanctions in place fail to convince them to stop advancing toward a nuclear weapon. These are hard things. They will require us to make some hard choices.

But I trust you know me. You know how I have conducted myself these past four years. You know how sober-minded I am and how I don’t do things rashly or act without good reason. I don’t have to play Macho Man on the world stage in order to look out for American interests. I don’t have to send young men and women to die to prove how strong our resolve is.

And you have seen the extremism on the other side. You have seen Governor Romney, a man who made his fortune in what a member of his own party called “vulture capitalism,” embrace the most extreme elements of his party and the most extreme policies imaginable. You’ve seen that. 

It comes down to this: Who do you trust to do the right thing as America moves forward?

The McCain Counterfactual

Thomas Frank was on MSNBC this morning promoting his new book, Pity the Billionaire: The Unlikely Resurgence of the American Right:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: After the collapse of the markets in 2008, you would expect a huge populist revival, a revival of the left, but actually two years later the biggest Republican landslide nationally in U.S. history. Why?

THOMAS FRANK: Exactly opposite of what you would expect. You know, if your model is the 1930s, everything went in the opposite direction…The populist feeling was really captured by the other side, by the conservative movement. You know, they got out there in the parks with the rallies—the Tea Party movement. And they were the ones denouncing the banks, denouncing Wall Street. They really captured that sensibility…

It is amazing when you think about it. The Republican Party, especially given the failure of the economic philosophy that governed it and governed the country, itself seemed on the edge of collapse after Republicans oversaw the near-collapse of the financial system.

As Frank said, one would expect a populist revolt from the left, like what happened much later with the Occupy movement. Wikipedia has a nice summary of the motivation of the “different local groups” that constitute what we know as the Occupy movement:

among the prime concerns is the claim that large corporations and the global financial system control the world in a way that disproportionately benefits a minority, undermines democracy and is unstable.

It’s not that hard to hear an echo of Tea Party resentment in those concerns. There is something of an overlapping outrage between populists left and right, when it comes to big banks and corporations and their inordinate influence.

But where were the Occupiers in the fall of 2008?

Well, oddly, the election of Barack Obama short-circuited that leftist revolt. Folks on the left were disposed to give him a chance to change things. I don’t think there is any doubt that if McCain had won in 2008, instead of witnessing the rise of the angry, ultra-conservative Tea Party, railing against bank bailouts and big government and that black man in the White’s House, we would have had a revival of left-leaning populism, one modeled very much on the Occupy movement, attacking the system from a different angle, an attack in support of the “99%” and most definitely an attack on the influence of money in politics.

Indeed, how different would our politics look today, in 2012, if there had been no Tea Party, no hysteria about the Scary Negro and his “socialist” policies? Certainly a President McCain would have had to bail out the banks in 2009, as Obama did, following George Bush’s tentative rescue. And certainly there would have been a 2010 mid-term resurgence by Democrats based on that bailout.

But would a populism from the left have been as fierce as what we saw, and continue to see to some extent, as that coming from the right? Would that populism have been as anxious to embrace every weird conspiracy dreamed up by liberal radio and television personalities? Would Democrats have regrouped after McCain’s election and secretly plotted to destroy his presidency on inauguration night, as Republicans did?

No. Why? Because there just aren’t that many liberal radio and television personalities to begin with. And those who do exist tend not to be Rush Limbaugh-size conspiracy fools.

More important, though, is that Democrats, the party of government, would have had no initial interest in sabotaging a McCain presidency, especially since McCain had periodically demonstrated in his career that he was willing to work with them to get things done. Because of their fondness for good government, it just isn’t in their nature to gum up the works (something that will have to change if Romney-Ryan, after a campaign of utter dishonesty built on Republican congressional obstruction, “takes back” the White’s House).

Left out of this analysis so far is the influence, which has come to be a dominating influence, of evangelicals on the Tea Party movement. The so-called teavangelicals have to a large degree muddled a movement that was energized by a libertarian antipathy to big government, debt and deficits, high taxes, and other “unconstitutional” intrusions.

Today the movement has been focused more on social issues, like contraception, abortion and homosexuality, because the movement is whiter, wealthier, manlier, and, most important, more evangelical than the population as a whole.

It’s entertaining to speculate about what might have happened if the country had chosen John McCain four years ago. But it is not that entertaining to observe what has happened to the country, particularly what has happened to the Republican Party, since America elected its first African-American in the midst of the worst economic turmoil in 80 years.

In fact, it is downright depressing.

One Dumb Socialist

That old 1998 Obama clip, the one where he says, “I actually believe in redistribution,” was pushed into the spotlight by Romney friend and media ally Matt Drudge, then endlessly promoted by Romney friend and media ally Fox “News,” and then, of course, exploited by Romney and Ryan on the stump.

Romney said on Wednesday that what Obama is proposing is unlike anything Americans have seen:

He really believes in what I’ll call a government-centered society. I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others, then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America. … I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others, but to create wealth for all of us.

Now, obviously Romney is wrong about America in this case (and in nearly every case). Income redistribution is theoretically present in our federal tax code, in which higher income folks are supposed to be required to pay at higher rates than the middle class and poor (this is not the place to argue why that mostly isn’t true, however).

And our system of entitlements, our hole-ridden safety net, is also an example of how we as a people—except for Tea Party extremists—have agreed that it is better for all of us if we means-test benefits like food stamps and health care—paid for by all taxpayers—and give them only to folks who need them.

But a larger point needs to be made—again and again—about the dishonesty of right-wingers, including right-wing media like Fox, whose “fair and balanced” brand is the butt of many jokes, but whose dishonesty is quite lucrative and thus quite resistant to criticism.

That dishonesty is manifest in the fact that today I finally saw on television—MSNBC, this morning, for instance—the entire context of Obama’s remark. And no surprise, far from sounding like a European socialist, Obama comes off sounding like a, well, like a moderate Republican of old, the kind teapartiers have hunted into extinction:

I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody’s got a shot.  How do we pool resources at the same time as we decentralize delivery systems in ways that both foster competition, can work in the marketplace, and can foster innovation at the local level and can be tailored to particular communities.

“Marketplace”? “Innovation at the local level”? “Tailored to particular communities”? Wow! Obama may be one of the dumbest socialists who ever lived.

Goodbye, Dick

I have followed the career of Indiana Senator Richard Lugar for years and, God rest his political soul,  he will soon be gone from the United States Senate.

And good riddance.

The mostly phony Republican moderate or “centrist,” who was the longest-serving senator in Indiana history, has voted for domestic obstructionism time and again throughout Obama’s presidency (including Tuesday’s vote to preserve low interest rates for millions of college students’ loans), and it is bullshit to claim (as many have) that he was one of the last of reasonable, responsible Republicans. There wasn’t that much reasonableness about him, except for his relatively pragmatic internationalism.

But international issues are only a small part of the job senators are called on to do. Domestically, Lugar’s past behavior will compare favorably to the behavior of the Tea Party nut job, another Dick, Richard Mourdock, who beat Lugar in the GOP primary on Tuesday, should Mourdock beat the Democrat in November.

Lugar didn’t even reside in Indiana, for God’s sake. When he came “home,” he lodged in a hotel in Indianapolis—initially at taxpayer’s expense.  Is that the behavior of a moderate centrist?

To prove my point that Lugar’s reasonableness is only party-deep, I present his concession remarks. Keep in mind that this man was allegedly a “statesman” in the Republican Party and that he had a “collegial relationship“—even friendship—with Barack Obama:

Hoosier Republican primary voters have chosen their candidate for the U.S. Senate. I congratulate my opponent on his victory in a hard fought race. I want to see a Republican in the White House, and I want to see my friend Mitch McConnell have a Republican majority in the Senate. I hope my opponent prevails in November to contribute to that Republican majority.

Blah, blah, blah. Contrast those partisan remarks with the remarks of President Obama, who said:

While Dick and I didn’t always agree on everything, I found during my time in the Senate that he was often willing to reach across the aisle and get things done. My administration’s efforts to secure the world’s most dangerous weapons has been based on the work that Sen. Lugar began, as well as the bipartisan cooperation we forged during my first overseas trip as senator to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

Sen. Lugar comes from a tradition of strong, bipartisan leadership on national security that helped us prevail in the Cold War and sustain American leadership ever since. He has served his constituents and his country well, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Now, that is class. And Lugar’s boilerplate partisan comments are, well, typical of a contemporary Republican who—even in defeat—still bends his knee to Tea Party extremists. God knows what good Lugar could have done by calling out the extremists in his party, but we will never know.

There just aren’t too many Republicans that have that kind of fight in them these days.

McCaskill: Her Opponents Want To “Turn Out The Lights On The Federal Government And Go Home”

I saw Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill on Saturday in Springfield. She seemed to be quite enthusiastic about taking the fight to Republicans this fall. She said some nice things about the stimulus plan passed in 2009, which saved many jobs and helped cover state budget shortfalls, including here in Missouri. It was good to hear her not run away from the major achievement of Democrats, in terms of helping turn around the economy.

She also talked about her potential opponents in the upcoming election. Since there has yet to be a Republican primary, there are three of them, extremists one and all.

Today, on Hardball with Chris Matthews, she talked about her politics, her opponents’ politics, and the Senate race: 

McCASKILL: The Senate has done its best work around the table of compromise. And compromise happens because of moderates. And many of your listeners may not want to hear this, but honestly, if we don’t have moderates, we’re not going to get things done on behalf of the American people.

I am, in this campaign, going to talk to a lot of Missourians–I’m going to cover the state like a blanket, I’m not going to get very much sleep–and I’m going to proudly tell them that I’m part of a moderate middle that believes compromise is a value that we need to cherish in this democracy. If we’re just at opposite ends of the room screaming at each other, we’re never going to solve the hard problems.

And that’s why I think moderation is important, and believe me the folks running against me, I mean they are so extreme, they make some of these people that are in the house look like moderates. They are very, very extreme folks.

MATTHEWS: Are the Tea Party folks still running the party out there?

McCASKILL: Yes. By and large. In fact I think that some of the moderate Republicans tried to get somebody else to run against me. They all took a pass. And so we have three people running that are all fighting over whether or not they’re the Tea Party-endorsed candidate. One of them got one Tea Party endorsement and the other two said, “Well, that’s not the real Tea Party, we have the Tea Party endorsement.”  So, this is all about fighting for the far right-wing base of the Republican Party. That’s who’s going to get the nomination in my state, and so Missourians are going to have a really clear choice: Somebody who’s moderate and believes in compromise, or somebody who believes we need to turn out the lights on the federal government and go home.

Now, as a liberal, I’m not exactly glad to hear that Senator McCaskill is proud to be a moderate. And I certainly object to her saying that “compromise happens because of moderates.” It actually doesn’t. Compromise happens because folks on each side of an issue decide to meet in the middle to get things done. By her reckoning, if you are already in the middle, then you most certainly aren’t compromising, right?

In any case, she does have it right about the candidates running against her:

Todd Akin, a congressman representing the western ‘burbs of St. Louis, is a certifiably unhinged Obama-hater.

John Brunner is a bidnessman who thinks that qualifies him to run the world (I think the family bidness makes deodorant and nail polish remover and, oh yeah, Germ-X).  His right-wing kookiness bona fides: he once was the state chairman of Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign.

Sarah Steelman (who I think will win) gives me another opportunity to play the priceless interview she did with Ozark Billy Long, my brilliant congressman. The interview speaks for itself, but as I said when I first posted it, it is a case of the blind leading the blind:

Here is McCaskill’s complete appearance on Monday’s Hardball:

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