Remarks And Asides

Still good news for President Obama in the latest of four CBS News/New York Times polls done since April of 2009 on the question of:

Most to Blame for the Condition of the Economy  

                    Now         3/2010                7/2009       4/2009

Bush                26%           28                             30             33

Wall Street     25               22                             29             21

Congress        11                10                             12             11

Obama              8                 7                                4               2

All                     7                 7                                6               7

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In Minnesota, the Democratic Governor, Mark Dayton, and GOP legislators are locked in a battle over how to close the state’s $5 billion budget deficit—with progressive tax hikes or with even more big budget cuts—eerily calling to mind our larger national issue.

And as the case with our national deficit, much of it is due to a former Republican executive, in this case Tim Pawlenty.  Rather than seek another term as the state’s governor and help fix the problems he left, Pawlenty, no doubt in a spasm of selfless patriotism, is seeking to bring his governing wisdom and fiscal responsibility to Washington, where, God knows, we don’t have enough Republican experts on how to ruin the economy and undermine government.

The deadline to avoid a government shutdown in Minnesota is midnight.  Tick, tock.

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President Obama continues to suffer indignity after indignity at the hands of either right-wingers—Glenn Beck  calling him a racist who hates white folks and Joe Wilson shouting “You lie!” at him during an address to Congress—or comedians—Jon Stewart addressing him as “dude” on The Daily Show—or journalists, like this morning when a big-time editor of Time magazine, Mark Halperin, called Obama a, uh, “dick” on Morning Joe.

MSNBC suspended Halperin, who is a regular on Joe Scarborough’s program and an analyst for the network.  And Halperin  apologized.

I was watching the event and I must say that I was personally offended by the fact that it was part of his wrongheaded “analysis” of yesterday’s press conference.  Halperin, who is paid handsomely to offer insightful critiques of such things, was dead wrong about Obama’s performance. 

The Time editor thought the President should not have been so rough on those mistreated Republicans and should have tried to understand John Boehner’s inability to get the votes to pass a budget deal that included tax increases and not have acted so, well, so dick-like by insisting that at least some (but not nearly enough) reality be part of the debate.

Halperin’s stunningly bad analysis was at least as offensive as the D word. 

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And speaking of dicks and MSNBC, what’s up with former MSNBC star Keith Olbermann?  First he leaves MSNBC and begins another version of “Countdown” on Al Gore’s Current TV network, competing with Lawrence O’Donnell, who occupies Olbermann’s old spot on MSNBC with a show called The Last Word.

By the way, O’Donnell’s program is in many ways better than Olbermann’s original show.  O’Donnell is able to get opposition political guests on, which makes for entertaining television, and his “Rewrite” segment is often the best single segment on any cable news show.  And O’Donnell has worked in Congress, six years as an aid and senior advisor to Daniel Patrick Moynihan and a couple of years as the staff director of the Senate Finance Committee, maybe the most powerful committee in Congress.

In any case, Olbermann first tried to run his new show a little past the hour so as to cut into his former colleague Rachel Maddow’s show, but was duly criticized by his “fans,” and then apologized and pulled back to ending on the hour.  Then on Tuesday Olbermann tweeted (God, I hate that word and that method of communication) the latest ratings for O’Donnell, which dropped 12% in correlation with the debut of Olbermann’s new show (whose viewership is less than half of O’Donnell’s).

Jeeze, I used to like Olbermann, but this kind of behavior is so petty and so unnecessary.  With all the right-wing nuttery out there, one would think Olbermann would spend every single minute of his time taking care of that business rather than trying to embarrass fellow liberals.

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Finally, Glenn Beck’s last show is tonight, in case you want to find out how the world ends.  After many episodes of leading us to believe that our demise is near, surely tonight we will have the demented denouement.

Prediction: There will be plenty of references to his “new” gig away from Fox, just in case Obama doesn’t destroy the country anytime soon.

What’s The Matter With Southeast Kansas?

I grew up in southeast Kansas, in Fort Scott, about 60 miles from here.

Tyro, Kansas, is 77 miles from Joplin. That’s where State Representative Virgil Peck  is from. I’ll let Lawrence O’Donnell take it from there:

The Real Bill O’Reilly

Bill O’Reilly called MSNBC “anti-American.”  Last night, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell hit back and captured Bill O’Reilly and Fox exactly—and I mean, exactly—right, and it is a pleasure to watch:

Iowa Teenager Speaks The Truth To Homophobes

Last night on The Last Word, Lawrence O’Donnell featured a short segment on the debate in the Iowa House of Representatives over revoking marriage rights for same-sex couples.  The Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2009 and Republicans in the Iowa House are seeking to overturn that decision, using scary arguments like the one advanced by Rep. Rich Anderson:

If we remove the gender requirement for marriage, there is no rational basis to define the number. So we open up the possibility of the constitutional recognition of polygamous relationships. That’s a slippery slope. And I don’t know where the logic is to draw the line. We wouldn’t recognize incestuous relationships between two consenting adult brothers and sisters. That raises up within us disgust, and we can’t accept that. We draw lines. We define marriage.

Polygamy and incest.  Of course that will follow from gay marriages! 

The truth is that one raises issues like polygamy and incest when one can’t explain how the Equal Protection Clause does not equally protect homosexuals who want to get married.  It’s not a matter of law for some conservatives; it’s a matter of fear.

And the truth is that one raises issues like polygamy and incest when one can’t explain why fundamental constitutional rights should be subject to the whims and prejudices of the electorate.  The measure  involves placing a constitutional ban on gay marriage before voters, who presumably would revoke the rights granted to homosexuals under the Constitution.

Even though the proposal to amend the state constitution passed the House with the vote of every single Republican who was present, along with three wayward Democrats, it will have a difficult time getting through the Iowa Senate, which is controlled, for now, by Democrats.

In any case, O’Donnell played (after a brief introduction) an impassioned plea from 19-year-old Zach Wahls, who spoke before the Iowa House and whose elegant and powerful statement everyone needs to hear:

How To Interview A Second Amendment Zealot

After the Tucson shooting, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said the following:

I wish there had been one more gun there that day in the hands of a responsible person, that’s all I have to say.

Last night on The Last Word, Lawrence O’Donnell, the best interviewer on television, asked Congressman Franks about that comment, and the idea behind it. 

What follows is a clip from the must-see segment (I started it more than four minutes into the interview, but the entire interview can be seen here), which demonstrates how good O’Donnell is at what he does, as well as the folly of the Second Amendment absolutist position:

Is The Tea Party Overrated?

We are not a wing of the party.  We are the party.

—Richard Viguerie, Chairman, ConservativeHQ

On The Last Word last night, we had a chance to see a preview of things to come within the Republican Party, in terms of what the leadership is facing with Tea Party candidates, who, by the way, not only think they represent every single American in the country, but think they now control the entire government.

Richard Viguerie, a veteran right-winger and Tea Party ally, who famously said last month, “We’re all on the same page until the polls close Nov. 2,” was a guest on the show,  along with Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation.

Viguerie has put the Republican Party on probation and said he had no worries about the Rand Pauls and the Michele Bachmanns and the Jim DeMints in the party.  He was sure they were onboard the Tea Party Demolition Train. He had others in mind:

What we’re concerned about is these establishment Republicans. People say, “Richard, how you gonna pressure them? How you gonna keep ‘em true to their promises?” And my response is to add on to what you were saying earlier—about taking over the Republican Party—I think that’s what conservatives need to do, and the Tea Party people, is just replace these people.  We are not a wing of the party.  We are the party.

Phillips, for his part, was just as emphatic:

We’re going to all the Republicans—the Senators and the Congressman—and we’re gonna be saying, “Hey, you all ran on conservative principles this time; this time you all are gonna have to live up to your conservative principles. You’re gonna have to get the out-of-control spending under control.  You’re gonna have to reduce spending. You’re gonna have to do something to get this economy going—perhaps a pretty-good tax cut.”

Now, although the conventional wisdom has it that the Tea Party was an overwhelming positive for Republicans, it’s important to remember that these Tea Party folks may or may not have helped Republicans win only 1/2 of 1/3 of the government. 

And it’s also important to remember that they may have cost the Republicans control of the Senate by nominating and supporting Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell and Ken Buck.  It’s quite possible all three of those seats would have gone Republican, if conventional Republican candidates had won the primaries.

Justin Wolfers, at Freakonomics, wonders out loud just what would have happened, if there were no Tea Party to supposedly energize Republicans.  What about the Senate?  He says:

It’s likely that just about any Republican could have won in those races where the Tea Party lights shone brightest — Rand Paul’s election to the Kentucky Senate seat, Marco Rubio defeat of Florida Governor Charlie Christ in their Senate race, or Mike Lee’s win in Utah.

And in Alaska, voters appear likely to have done an end-run around the fervent Tea Partiers, electing the newly-independent Lisa Murkowski.

As for the House, he says:

…perhaps there were some congressional races where Tea Party enthusiasm carried the day.  But you’ve got to balance this against the possibility that unpopular candidates in the headline Senate and gubernatorial races actually hurt other Republicans down the ticket.

Such counterfactuals are impossible to validate, of course.  But my view is that given the state of the economy, Republicans would certainly have taken control of the House even if there were no Tea Party.  And it’s quite possible that we would be looking at Mitch McConnell as the Majority Leader of the Senate, if Tea Party extremists had not intervened in Republican primaries.

But what I am certain of is this: If Tea Party enthusiasts keep trash-talking like Richard Viguerie and Judson Phillips for the next two years—with a haughty certainty that they speak for all Americans—then they will definitely wake up a sleepy Democratic electorate in 2012.

And that’s not even counting what their arrogance will do to the guts of the Republican Party between now and then.

Here’s some of the segment on The Last Word:

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