Claire McCaskill: “This Fight Has Not Been About Nothing”

Missouri’s Senator Claire McCaskill, nobody’s liberal Democrat, appeared on Meet the Press this morning with South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune and she said this about the debt-ceiling brawl:

Here’s the bottom line: This fight has not been about nothing. This hasn’t just been political theater. There’s a philosophical difference here on the hill between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, and it’s pretty simple: They have voted to keep giving taxpayer checks to big oil while they voted to convert the Medicare system to vouchers. Now, that doesn’t compute for us. How can you be more willing to push money—public money—to the most profitable corporations in the history of the world at the same time you’re willing to have smaller Medicare?

So, that’s really the fight here.

Yes, that’s the fight, as both sides acknowledge, including Senator Thune, a right-winger who represents 814,180 folks or 1/379 of the U.S. population. He has the power of, say, New York’s Charles Schumer, who represents more than 19 million folks or 1/16  of the population. (Missouri’s population is 1/51 of the total, so Claire McCaskill represents more than seven times the people as John Thune, but has no larger voice in our political system.)

Senator Thune was asked this question by David Gregory this morning:

GREGORY: Senator Thune, as  a Republican here, somebody who’s reportedly in play, what has to be in this agreement to get you to “yes”?

THUNE: Well, I think a couple of things, David. First, no taxes.

No taxes.”  No taxes first, and really, no taxes second, third, and on to infinity.  

Republican irresponsibility, as the debt-ceiling debacle demonstrates, knows no bounds.

Teapartiers Passed Their Last Gas

The House of Representatives has just passed the Save John Boehner’s Ass Act, 218-210.* The passing of this extremist debt-ceiling plan, which for now keeps John Boehner in power, accomplished one important job: it made the Tea Party zealots completely irrelevant as we move forward in an attempt to settle this GOP-created crisis.

Teapartiers have finally passed their last gas on this issue and no one need pay them any more attention. Now, the quasi-grown-ups in the GOP have to either come to an agreement with too-generous Democrats, or things blow up.

That is, unless President Obama decides to take the country through the Fourteenth Amendment escape hatch.

_______________________________

* Using conservative reasoning, the “legislation” passed with bipartisan opposition, since 22 Republicans, most of them believing that even more damage could have been done to the country, voted against it.

This Is Not Your Daddy’s Poker Game Anymore

Normally, watching politics unfold is like watching a movie in which you know that before the last credits are run there will be some kind of acceptable denouement and the fun is watching the characters get there, watching the plot develop. 

But this fight over the debt ceiling is turning out to be something else.

Anyone who loves high-level politics, as I do, in a sense loves what’s been going on in Washington the past few weeks.  It’s intriguing, entertaining, even compelling. Politics is part art, part science, and part poker.

Mike Viqueira of NBC News reported today that someone from Chicago playfully said to President Obama after an event this morning that he had met him before and that the President owed him a poker game. Obama replied:

I’ve got a high-stakes game of poker going on right now.

Well, not exactly.  It’s sort of gone beyond poker.  In a poker game, in the end everyone gets up from the table, some as winners, some as losers, or all winning some and losing some and getting the most out of the opportunity. But they all get up.

We need new metaphors now.

Steven Rattner, financier and economic analyst—and the man who helped President Obama rescue the auto industry—was a guest this morning on Morning Joe. He had his own metaphor. He said the following in response to Joe Scarborough’s question as to how the current stalemate can get broken:

I wish I knew. You know, the problem with this is it’s like a form of economic terrorism. I imagine these tea party guys are like strapped with dynamite standing in the middle of times square at rush hour and saying, “You do it my way or we’re going to blow you up, ourselves up, and the whole country up with us.”

So, you tell me how those kinds of standoffs end.

Economic terrorism?  Hmm.  That can’t end well, can it?

 

Bizarro!

Although he tried to minimize the damage by cozying up to Sean Hannity on Wednesday night, John McCain, who ruined his reputation by, among other things, unleashing Sarah Palin on an unsuspecting world, did manage to slam the Tea Party on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

What is really amazing is that some members are believing that we can pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution in this body with its present representation – and that is foolish. That is worse than foolish. That is deceiving many of our constituents.

To hold out and say we won’t agree to raising the debt limit until we pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, it’s unfair, it’s bizarro.

Bizarro. I like that. McCain also dismissed any idea of rearranging payments after a default:

Today we are six days away from a possible default which could plunge this country into a serious crisis. There are those that argue somehow in a bizarre fashion that somehow we could prioritize our payments to the most urgent requirements, such as our veterans, such as Social Security.

Bizarro. Bizarre. Okay. But McCain also said the following, which is bizarrely bizarro in its own right:

This is the same kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP nominees.

What?  He’s dissing Sharron Angle?  Now, that is bizarrely bizarro because of this news story from October of last year:

LAS VEGAS – In her quest to topple U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republican challenger Sharron Angle introduced U.S. Sen. John McCain (Arizona-R) to a crowd of Las Vegas supporters at the Orleans Friday night. McCain took the stage and delivered a ringing endorsement for Angle.

“I look forward to standing side by side with Sharron Angle,” Sen. McCain said. “I look forward to fighting with her against this out of control spending, this mortgaging of our children’s futures, this generational theft that has taken place.”

Whoops!

[Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images]

Ozark Billy Long Makes The Big Time!

I have to admit that although I knew Ozark Billy would embarrass us here in Southwest Missouri, I had no idea he would be this big:

Watch the segment, after the commercial:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And in case you missed it, here is Colonel Ozark Billy’s first appearance on Worst Persons, although the Colonel only won the silver medal:

The Middle Of The Road Or The End Of The Road

“Ignore the extremists and meet in the middle of the road.”

—Harry Reid’s advice to John Boehner, July 27, 2011, 10:51am

Harry Reid’s statement is an American statement, a recognition that this large country should not be governed by factions, by extremists. We work as a country because we have to work together as a country.

And regarding the debt-ceiling crisis, Democrats have already moved over to the Republicans’ lane on this road, and if Republicans say no to Reid’s offer of a generous compromise—no new tax revenues are included—there are only two alternatives for Democrats:

1) Let the Republicans quickly drive the country into the Tea Party ditch, or,

2) Get in the car with them and slowly drive it into the Tea Party ditch.

The Boehner Two-Step Is In Trouble—With Republicans

Jim Jordan is the chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, a driving force behind the nuttery going on regarding the debt ceiling.  Our local representatives are members, naturally.

Of John Boehner’s latest two-step debt-ceiling proposal, Jordan said that he was “confident as of this morning that there were not 218 Republicans in support of this plan.” Why?

Because it doesn’t cut enough and it creates a pesky 12-member bipartisan committee that would be responsible for cutting the deficit as much as $1.8 trillion more than the initial $1.2 trillion Boehner proposes. The committee’s finding would go immediately to both floors for an up or down vote, without amendment.

And that’s the problem.

Jordan said that if six Democrats and one Republican on the committee decide to raise taxes as part of the mix to reduce the deficit, “you can’t keep that off the floor.”

And keeping any bill that would increase revenue off the floor—where it might actually pass—is more important than anything to House Tea Party Republicans, who, apparently, find perverse moral satisfaction in shielding the wealthy from tax fairness.

Obama’s Choice

“This is no way to run the greatest country on Earth.  It’s a dangerous game that we’ve never played before, and we can’t afford to play it now.  Not when the jobs and livelihoods of so many families are at stake.  We can’t allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington’s political warfare.”

—Barack Obama, July 25, 2011

 

Mr. Obama is frustratingly rational.

What frustrates is his ongoing assumption that he is dealing with people who will respond to reasonable arguments like, say, when he quoted Jefferson last night:

“Every man cannot have his way in all things — without this mutual disposition, we are disjointed individuals, but not a society.”

Thomas Jefferson never met Grover Norquist.

Or John Boehner.

Last night, during this moment of national import, the Speaker of the House took the opportunity to trash the President and tell monstrous lies, beginning with this one:

Millions are looking for work, have been for some time, and the spending binge going on in Washington is a big part of the reason why.

Who would write such a shockingly dishonest sentence, let alone stand before America as a leader of a once-great political party and utter it?

John Boehner.

He has now officially become the leader of the extremists in the GOP, those unreasonable souls whom George Will, Tea Party intellectual, praised this way in today’s Joplin Globe:

Their inflexibility astonishes and scandalizes Washington because it reflects the rarity of serene fidelity to campaign promises.

Leaving aside the false suggestion that the debt ceiling formed any part of the campaign in 2010, consider the fact that Will is praising inflexibility when the only way our country can be governed is by flexibility, by compromise. There is no other way to govern 300 million people.

Mr. Will can extol teapartiers’ “serene fidelity”—I’m sure all extremists possess it—but many of us see people who not only won’t bend in the slightest to the will of the other side, they won’t even bend to the will of the country, whose people want—by a substantial majority—a compromise that includes revenue increases.

Tea Party zealots, as President Obama surely realizes by now, are giddy over the idea that they have a rather dear hostage tied up in their ideological basement: The economic health of the United States and by extension the working class and the most vulnerable of Americans.

And what all of us need to remember is that these zealots, far from any known region of rationality, are willing to shoot that hostage right between the eyes and proudly and defiantly walk into the 2012 elections with blood spatters on their hands.

Boehner fibbed too when he said about the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act that it was passed “with bipartisan support,” knowing that only five Democrats supported it. As I have previously suggested, it is nearly twice as accurate to characterize it as having bipartisan opposition, since nine Republicans sensibly voted against it.  But such dishonesty is trivial compared to the deceit involved in the conservative insistence that the budget can be balanced without additional revenues.

The Speaker also said this:

I want you to know I made a sincere effort to work with the president to identify a path forward that would implement the principles of Cut, Cap, & Balance in a manner that could secure bipartisan support and be signed into law. I gave it my all.

His all?  No one, including the Speaker himself, believed that that extremist piece of legislation—its radical “principles” dreamed up just a few months ago by inflexible ideologues—ever had a chance to get through the Senate, let alone get to the President, since it would have ripped gaping holes in America’s social safety net.

And dubious is Mr. Boehner’s suggestion that the latest scheme he and Eric Cantor have dreamed up—the two-step approach designed as a political instrument to bludgeon the President in six months with the same kind of foamy-mouth zealotry we have seen the last six months—”can and will pass the Senate.”

Hell, he’s not even sure he can get most of the foamy-mouth zealots in his own caucus to vote for it. 

In any case, President Obama’s address last night was obviously a way of urging the people most affected by a debt default—the hostages—to get involved in the process and try to talk the hostage-takers into releasing them.

Unfortunately, that won’t happen.

The hammer is cocked.  In their zealotry, the perpetrators of this crime believe that pulling the trigger may be the only way of getting the larger job done: a revolutionary retreat into pre-New Deal America, where the moneyed class will enjoy the bounty while the rest of us eat their scraps.

As for President Obama, he will have to decide whether he will play it safe and pay the ransom to political fanatics in Congress or be the champion of the following point of view, which he described last night:

Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask a corporate jet owner or the oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get.  How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries?  How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don’t need and didn’t ask for?  

That’s not right.  It’s not fair. 

No, it’s not right and it’s not fair, Mr. Obama. So how can you put your name on it?

 

How Dim Is Billy Long?

Whatever you may have thought of the late Amy Winehouse or her music, surely we can all agree that Congressman Ozark Billy’s willingness to use the English singer’s sad death to make a stupid political point is going too far, even for a Tea Party Republican:

 

Here is how London’s Daily Mail reported this embarrassing episode:

A Republican congressman has faced a furious backlash after he compared the U.S. debt ceiling crisis to the tragic demise of soul singer Amy Winehouse.

Just two days after the Back to Black singer was found dead at her home in Camden, North London, Missouri congressman Billy Long chose to express his views about the state of American politics through the crudest of metaphors.

Referring to suggestions that Miss Winehouse died because of drug and drink abuse, he wrote on Twitter: ‘No one could reach #AmyWinehouse before it was too late. Can anyone reach Washington before it’s too late? Both addicted – same fate???’

Winehouse, who has not yet been buried, had for years battled depression as well as addiction to drink and hard drugs before she passed away, aged just 27, on Saturday.

Today’s tweet by Mr Long, which he posted using his @auctnr1 account, was seen by many critics as written in the poorest taste.
The congressman’s online followers immediately responded, slamming him for his choice of analogy.

Adam David Givens wrote: ‘Oh I’m sry @auctnr1 did the autopsy rprt show #amywinehouse died b/c of addiction? It’s not out yet so don’t use some1 tragedy for ur gain.’

William Lynch wrote: ‘I want to hear from the people that elected Billy Long. How many of you would take it back?’

William Lynch, by the way, is a former Joplin resident.

“Bipartisan” Opposition to Cut, Cap, and Kill Doesn’t Faze Boehner

Possibly just to demonstrate how unserious he is, John Boehner issued this tweet today:

Bipartisan plan? I heard Kevin McCarthy, House GOP Majority Whip, say essentially the same thing this morning to NBC’s Chuck Todd, and I’ve heard many Republicans refer to the legislation as “bipartisan.”  Since I’ve already written negatively about the the budget-slashing, New Deal-killing bill known here as Cut, Cap and Kill, let’s look at the claim that the bill that passed the House was bipartisan.

H.R. 2560, The Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011, passed the House on July 19 by a vote of 234 to 190, with a not-so-staggering 5 Democrats voting with the Ayes.  And I must point out that one of those Democrats—David Boren of neighboring Oklahoma—is no more a Democrat than Ozark Billy Long, with whom he shares a similar voting record in the House. But I’ll be generous and throw in Boren as a Democrat, which means that 98% of the Ayes were official Republicans.

Now, there are 193 Democrats in the House and the five who voted with the GOP represents 2.5% of the caucus.  That means that 97.5% of Democrats voted against the constitutional monstrosity.

But I want to make a larger point about this bipartisan nonsense.  Using the standards of John Boehner and the House Republicans, the opposition to the Cut, Cap, and Balance bill was decidedly more bipartisan than the support for it.  There were nine—count ’em—nine Republicans (3.7% of their caucus) who voted against the bill.

So, we can say that the bipartisan opposition to Cut, Cap, and Kill was nearly twice as strong as the so-called bipartisan support for it.

Tweet that, Mr. Boehner.

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