The Party Of “The Struggling Masses”

A gifted orator and presidential candidate once said the following:

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

Obviously that wasn’t Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, since it was uttered in, well, 1896, at the Democratic National Convention. That’s how long Americans have been fighting the fight against trickle-down economics, and that’s how long the Democratic Party has associated itself with the masses, “those below.”

But Democrats weren’t always defenders of the low-flying hoi polloi. Before William Jennings Bryan, who at 36 became the youngest presidential candidate in history, Democrats tended to be conservative and favor a teensy-weensy government, a government so small that moneyed interests could have their way with the country.

Oddly, it was Bryan who brought the Democratic Party into the 20th century as a progressive institution. He was The Great Commoner. But he also was a fundamentalist Presbyterian, a pacifist, hater of evolution and the drink, most famous these days for an epic battle with Clarence Darrow over the teaching of evolution in the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee. The fundamentalism that had stained part of his mind has also stained his reputation.

Unfortunately, Bryan is not much known for being a transformative advocate of liberalism, as The Washington Post pointed out last year:

Bryan, who saw religion as a force for progressive reform, is sometimes portrayed as a simpleton, even a reactionary, because of his crusade against the teaching of evolution as fact. Yet in many ways he was far ahead of his time. In 1896 and in his subsequent presidential campaigns in 1900 and 1908, he advocated for women’s suffrage, creation of the Federal Reserve and implementation of a progressive income tax, to name a few reforms. When Franklin Roosevelt implemented the New Deal, Herbert Hoover sniffed that it was just Bryanism by another name.

As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, representing two very different opinions about the New Deal, are getting ready for a high-stakes debate, we should remember, when President Obama takes the stage Wednesday night as a Democrat, he will be representing a party that had its compass reset by a man with faults, a man who was never destined to be president—he lost three times—but a gifted man who was destined to make the Democratic Party the defender of “those below,” as opposed to the guardian of America’s wealthy class.

Here is another excerpt from Bryan’s famous Cross of Gold speech, given at his party’s convention in 1896, but which serves always as an appeal to the spirit of the Democratic Party:

…it is simply a question that we shall decide upon which side shall the Democratic Party fight. Upon the side of the idle holders of idle capital, or upon the side of the struggling masses? That is the question that the party must answer first; and then it must be answered by each individual hereafter. The sympathies of the Democratic Party, as described by the platform, are on the side of the struggling masses, who have ever been the foundation of the Democratic Party.

Getting Right With The Word “God,” Dammit

n a day when everyone in the country is talking about Bill Clinton’s amazing speech on Wednesday night, I clicked on Fox “News” dot com and I found this:

What? Are you kidding me?

I understand that right-wingers want to steer everyone away from Clinton’s devastating attack on Republicans and his emphatic support for Barack Obama, but this is bleeping ridiculous.

The fake controversy is over the word “God” and its absence from the Democratic Party platform, and over how when Obama demanded the thing be “fixed,” that God-hating Democratic delegates booed God’s holy name.

Except that “God” is not his name at all. You see, God doesn’t have a name, or he has a thousand names, depending on whom you ask.

In their party platform, Republicans managed to slip in the word a whopping 12 times! Wow, they really do love God! Democrats instead of using the word “God,” substituted “faith,” as in, “Faith has always been a central part of the American story.” How controversial that is. God, who told us in the book of Hebrews that “without faith it is impossible to please him,” must really be displeased over that phrasing. He is fickle that way, you know.

In their 2008 platform Democrats only mentioned God once, which just goes to show that they hate God a little bit more this time around. Oh, my, Allah. (Allah, I remind you, is not God’s name either. It is just Arabic for “God.”)

Yes, believe it or not, that is what has right-wingers so outraged, albeit most of it is phony outrage designed to deflect the power of Clinton’s convention speech and to divert attention away from a very successful Democratic convention.

But still, these people are nuts.

Paul Ryan, now affectionately known as “Lyin’ Ryan,” said today that Democrats “were against God before they were for him.” Yep, he said that. Let me repeat it, or, no, I’ll let him repeat it:

Again, these people are nuts. They really are.

Apparently this all began with a post from David Brody, the chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, home to kooky evangelical Pat Robertson. Brody began his short piece this way:

Guess what? God’s name has been removed from the Democratic National Committee platform.

Again, Mr. Brody, who ought to know better, has it all wrong. “God” is not God’s “name,” okay? If right-wingers want to have God all to themselves they ought to at least get right with the word “God,” dammit.

On Wednesday Paul Ryan said the following about the “rather peculiar” “purges of God” from platform language:

It’s not in keeping with our founding documents, our founding vision, but I guess you would have to ask the Obama administration why they purged all this language from their platform.

Forget that it wasn’t the Obama administration who “purged” the language. It was Mr. Obama, in a unintended tribute to ignorance and bigotry, who eventually restored it on Wednesday over the objection of some thinking Democrats.

But as for those “founding documents” and our “founding vision” that Ryan referenced, huh? What is he talking about?

You can check the body of the Constitution from now until Jesus comes back to play General Patton at Armageddon and you won’t find the word “God” anywhere. You can find “Nature’s God” only once in the Declaration of Independence, which has deistic, not theistic, connotations.

So Paul Ryan, genius of the GOP, is just plain goofy, like the rest of the conservatives who hope this stupidity resonates with the undecided American electorate.

The question I ask, after all this embarrassing nonsense, is this: Now that Republicans are attacking Democrats over God, is Mittens’ weird religion—the guy may get up every morning and don sacred skivvies for Allah’s sake!—now fair game?

Disturbed And Disturbing Democrats

There is always some correlation between what pollsters call “engagement” with an upcoming election and the eventual electoral turnout on election day. Just how well prior engagement and turnout correlate is a matter of debate, but the news from the latest in-depth Pew Research survey is not good news for Democrats in terms of a voter interest gap in the November election.

While it is true that more Democrats are juiced about their candidate than Republicans are juiced about Etch-A-Romney, this bothers me a lot:

Republicans hold the edge on several turnout measures, in contrast to 2008 when Democrats had leads – some quite substantial – on nearly every indicator. More Republican voters than Democratic voters are giving quite a lot of thought to the election (73% of Republicans vs. 66% of Democrats) and paying very close attention to election news (45% vs. 37%). In 2008, Democrats held leads on both interest measures, the first time that had occurred in campaigns dating to 1992.

Moreover, GOP voters are more likely than Democrats to say it really matters who wins the 2012 election (72% vs. 65%). Four years ago, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say it really mattered who prevailed.

How can it be that only about two-thirds of the Democrats polled believe it “really matters” who wins? What narcotic, legal or illegal, is being ingested by the one-third of Democrats who don’t think it really matters? Whatever it is, Democratic leaders had better figure out how to pound reality into the heads of these disturbed and disturbing Democrats in the next four months or all of us will need narcotics to endure the reality of a Romney administration.

Friends May Go

Friends may come and friends may go,
Friends may peter out we know;
We’ve been friends through thick and thin,
Peter out…or peter in.

—old toast

Anthony Weiner, famous now for acting like an unsupervised teenager, was one of my favorite liberals.  He took on the bad guys on Fox “News”; he took on the hard-right Republican rabble in the House; he articulated the kind of liberalism in which I strongly believe.

Which, of course, is why he has to go, has to sort of peter out.

It doesn’t matter to me that he broadcast his photogenic weenie all over creation, or that he had sex talk with consenting adults, or that he rubbed himself raw while doing either one of the above.

But it does matter that he could walk in front of his constituents, via the camera he loves so much, and tell a self-serving lie.  He should have either shut up or confessed or resigned.  Democrats believe in the authenticity of government, in the basic credibility of the political class.  Lying so blatantly, even about one’s weenie, undermines that credibility and undermines the Democrats’ argument for good government.

If Mr. Weiner really believes in the politics he’s been preaching, he will leave the scene.  He certainly realizes that the other side will use his continued presence to delegitimize not so much him, but his brand of politics and his political party, home to his kind of politics.

He owes it to the Democratic Party, to his fellow Democrats, and to his fellow liberals, to go home, peter out or peter in.

Freedom Works’ Crib Notes

While the national media foolishly and sadly follow Sarah Palin around the country, serious Tea Party people—Palin is not seriously thinking about running for president—are focusing on the battle ahead.

Dick Armey, former House Majority Leader and now Pooh-Bah of Freedom Works, has graciously supplied freshman House Republicans with a few simple points to make about the party’s plan to hold the debt ceiling hostage in exchange for some ideological candy and about the party’s plot to murder Medicare in its sleep.

Debt Ceiling:Key point: the world does not end if the debt ceiling is not raised. Treasury Secretary Geitner [sic] is not likely to default on our loans. Spending cuts will become a priority before default.”

Translation: We don’t have to worry about any fallout from our irresponsible behavior.  Geithner will either have to do our bidding or we will blame him for any trouble!  It’s that simple fellow Republicans!

Medicare Caper:Get out there and talk to people. Hold town halls at senior centers and other areas where the population is especially concerned about their benefits being cut. Take the lessons of ’94 and ’95 and get out there and explain to people that their immediate benefits will not be affected.”

Translation: Go tell the old folks who love their Medicare, and who vote in droves, that they have nothing to fear.  We’re not going to murder their Medicare, only their children’s and grandchildren’s Medicare. What old-timer wouldn’t buy into that plan?  No harm, no foul. The geezers get to keep (most) of their current bennies, while the younger folks will both pay for those bennies and cough up more scrilla for cost increases in their own health care coverage resulting from our stingy “new” plan.  Let’s hope the voters don’t figure out the unfairness of that part of our electoral scheme.

The Myth Of Doing Nothing: “We need to dispel the myth that if we leave Medicare alone it will stay the same. It won’t…Democrats do not have a plan of their own. Hold up a blank piece of paper as a powerful image of their do-nothing approach. Stick to your message.”

Translation: As long as Democrats are just trying to keep us from killing Medicare, we can win the message battle by simply saying our plan to kill it is the only one out there.

Republican Math, You Know

I know much has been made about Bill Clinton’s “I hope Democrats don’t use it as an excuse to do nothing” backstage comment to Paul Ryan, about the dazzling win by a pro-Medicare Democrat in blood-red NY-26.

But let’s look at Ryan’s comment to Clinton:

My guess is it’s gonna sink into paralysis, is what’s gonna happen. And you know the math. I mean, It’s just — we knew we were putting ourselves out there. But you gotta start this. You gotta get out there. You gotta get this thing moving.

Despite Ryan’s sounding like a wounded pup looking for some comfort from his master, I will give him and the Republicans credit for putting themselves “out there.” They are out there, that’s for sure. But I’m more interested in this part of Ryan’s comment:

You know the math.

Ah. The math. As columnist Gene Lyons has said, Republicans have been waging a war on arithmetic for years. Now, it turns out that Ryan knows “the math.” And he knows others “know the math.” Which doesn’t explain why, if the math is so crystal clear, why his budget plan—now the plan of the entire Republican Party—fails so miserably in its arithmetic.

Let’s forget for the moment the eventual and drastic reductions in Medicaid; let’s forget for a moment the destruction of the Medicare system, replacing it with something worth much less; let’s forget about the cuts in domestic programs like food stamps—which money goes directly in the coffers of local retailers like Wal-Mart and Target and other grocers—and instead, let’s just focus for a minute on the Republican vision for taxes—which any realistic budget mathematician has to consider—and see what we find.

We find tax cuts.

That’s right. The man and the party so concerned about “the math” propose to cut taxes even more, cutting the top individual rate from the current 35% down to 25%, which represents the lowest rate since 1931. You remember 1931, right? That was before Social Security. Before Medicare. Before Medicaid. Before Democrats stepped in to rescue America from that era’s Republican Tea Party dominance.

With a federal budget already starving from insufficient revenues, a budget that is as much a victim of Republican arithmetic as an aging population, we have Republicans in Congress—both chambers, now—proposing to cut taxes even more, suggesting, as they always do, that doing so will result in—voilà!—a thriving, prosperous, job-creating economy. You know, like the one George W. Bush left us!

Paul Ryan said to Bill Clinton, “You know the math.” Yes, we know the math, the Republican math.

And a lot of us know it doesn’t add up, not now, not ten years ago, or twenty years into the future.

Ozark Billy Snubs The Erstwhile Conservative

On Saturday, I continued my tradition of attending the annual Joplin Tea Party rally.

Unfortunately for organizers, though, there weren’t that many teapartiers who were willing to continue their tradition of attending.  This year’s contingent was much smaller than last year’s, which was much smaller than the year before. 

But the sparse crowd—maybe 150 folks—was nevertheless thrown lots of blood-red meat from the speakers, which besides the usual locals, included would-be senator Rep. Todd Akin, who has never met a Democrat who wasn’t also a socialist, and, of course, Colonel Ozark Billy Long.

Now, I happened to be standing in the back of the crowd, when I spotted Colonel Billy trying to slip away from the area where the speakers were huddled:

Sensing a chance to talk to the Colonel one-on-one, I hurried over to where I thought he was heading, camera in tow.  I was prepared to make and post a newsworthy video for my faithful readers.  As I was walking, I looked up and saw Ozark Billy staring at me as I approached, with an unwelcoming look on his face. Nevertheless,  I pressed on, again, with camera in tow.

As I walked up to my congressman, my representative, I introduced myself and told him I was from Joplin, clearly identifying myself as one of his constituents.  I asked him if he minded if I interviewed him with my camera on.  No, he said.  Really? I asked.  No, he said, I don’t want you to do that.  Well, I protested, why can’t I use it?  He anxiously looked around as if he were waiting on someone, then responded again that he didn’t want me to use the camera. He said, what is it you want to ask me?

Okay, I thought. No camera, thus, no record of our conversation, but I must soldier on.

I told him I wanted to talk about his vote on the Ryan budget plan the previous day, which essentially does away with Medicare while giving tax cuts to the wealthy.  I asked him how he justified that vote.  We have to do something, he said. He told me that what the plan does is merely give people a “cafeteria” plan like he gets as a government employee.  Since Ozark Billy didn’t know I had been a government employee, I suppose he thought that his response would suffice to shut me up.  But, of course, it didn’t.

I hurriedly explained to him—he was getting fidgety waiting— that the Ryan Medicare plan would end Medicare as we know it, and the so-called voucher proposal for those under 55 would not be sufficient to purchase insurance and people would have to pay much more out of their pockets.  I added that those under 55, even while receiving reduced benefits themselves, would be forced to pay for the current Medicare system, the beneficiaries of which will continue to receive the current generous benefits for many, many years.

He didn’t dispute that but merely reiterated that something needed to be done because the system was designed when people only lived to be “48 years old.”  Aghast at that, I responded with a “that’s simply not true,” and was poised to explain why.  Except that a vehicle—the one Ozark Billy had been so anxiously awaiting—pulled up beside us. And without even saying goodbye, in went the Colonel and off went the car. 

I, one of Congressman Long’s constituents, was left standing on the sidewalk, camera in tow.

Long returned a short time later and gave a speech that was mostly a repeat of an interview he gave to local right-wing radio station, KZRG.  He even gave us another rendition of his now-famous “auction chant.”  The small crowd cheered.  I turned red with embarrassment.

But toward the end of his speech, Ozark Billy said the following to the crowd, and to me, the camera-toting constituent he had earlier snubbed:

We’re just having a lot of good success helping people. But it is the House of Representatives. Never forget that. It is the House of Representatives.

I’ve got a Bozo on the front of my truck—a lot of people say how come you got Bozo on the dash?—that’s to remind me—and I’ve had it on there for years—that’s to remind me not to take myself too seriously. I’m doing your work in D.C., and I was standing right down there last year with ya and I’ll be back down there in a minute…

Good! I thought to myself. He’s doing “our” work. And he’s coming down “here” among “us,” the folks. That would give me a chance to continue my conversation with him. What a man of the people!  Colonel Ozark Billy Long, man of the people!

Except that after he finished his speech,  I watched him leave the podium, walk over to his Bozo-guided truck, and get in the passenger side. Then I watched someone drive him away. 

Still holding my camera, all I could think to say was, Bye-bye, Colonel Billy! Thanks for stopping by and chatting with your constituents!

Democrats Have A Choice

I have heard liberals and Democrats I respect very much get it all wrong regarding the nature of the upcoming battle over raising the federal debt ceiling.

One analysis has it that Speaker Boehner is hamstrung by the Tea Party in the House and he can use that as leverage during upcoming negotiations with Obama and Reid. 

The gist of it is that Boehner can say to Democrats that he wants to do the right thing but those crazy teapartiers won’t let him.  He will argue that he needs something big—substantial cuts, say—to take back to the ravenous nuts in order to keep them in line. Otherwise, he will claim, those crazy extremist Republicans would be willing to tank the economy.

But that analysis is wanting.  Boehner can’t credibly make the argument that there’s no way to raise the debt ceiling without giving irresponsible House Republicans want they want.  Somehow, people forget that there are 193 Democrats in the House.  Only a handful of responsible Republicans—if there are any left in the House—are needed to get the debt ceiling raised and fend off a potential crisis.

If Boehner can’t find a handful of Republicans who care more about the country than they do their conservative ideology, then Democrats should stand back and watch Republicans destroy themselves, as the ideologues put the financial industry—and likely the entire economy—in the proverbial ditch again.  Not to mention that those around the world who buy U.S. Treasury bonds would have good reason to believe that America is no longer a stable place in which to invest.

Yes, Democrats must have the guts to call Boehner’s and the Tea Party’s bluffs.  If the GOP sabotages Wall Street (very unlikely since they have recently kissed and made up) and by extension Main Street, then that once-noble party will seal its fate for a generation.  The likely scenario, though, is that enough Republicans will join Democrats and raise the debt ceiling, thus averting potential disaster. 

Democrats, therefore, shouldn’t give an inch on the debt ceiling debate.

The other analysis I have heard involves the fact that 235 House Republicans have made love to tax-hater Grover Norquist and pledged their undying fealty to the concept that the government already taxes too much.  In post-orgasmic promise mode, they promise Grover never to raise taxes.

Never mind that revenues, as part of the overall economy, are lower now than any time since 1950. Never mind that the top marginal rates are lower than they’ve been since 1931.  Never mind that we are running huge deficits and piling up unfathomable debt, substantially due to a lack of federal income.

This analysis, much like the other one, seems to put Democrats in a box.  Republicans will not compromise on the revenue issue, so Democrats have to compromise on budget austerity.  In fact, under this analysis, Democrats have to essentially rubber-stamp the severe austerity advocated by the most extremist Republicans in history or watch the economy crumble. 

Again, Boehner, unless he meant it when he said there is no daylight between him and the Tea Party, can rely on sensible Democrats to pull his party’s chestnuts out of the debt-ceiling fire.  He can make a deal that will satisfy Democrats and save the economy and simultaneously allow his extremist colleagues to vote against the debt ceiling increase.  Or, he can risk our economic recovery—and risk the full faith and credit of the United States—and possibly send us into a recession greater than the one we just witnessed—or worse.

In short, Democrats can force some in the Republican Party to be responsible stewards of the nation’s business.  Or they can join in with Republicans and kill our nation’s well-being cut by cut by cut by cut.

Democrats, who control two-thirds of the relevant government in this case, have that obvious choice. It’s time Democrats—and the rest of America—find out if Republicans are willing to throw America’s economic fortunes to the wind out of a fanatical and dangerously misplaced loyalty to a discredited political ideology.

[top photo: AP; bottom: LA Progressive]

America Held Hostage, Act Two

Almost exactly as I predicted, Democrats, fearful of a government shutdown, paid yet another ransom to Republicans, who have become quite good at holding the country hostage and extracting concessions from the “party of government.”

Last night, President Obama was almost giddy in making the announcement of the budget deal, which he said—no, he bragged—contained “the largest annual spending cut in our history.” He followed with this:

Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them.  And I certainly did that.

Hmm. Let’s see. Since this was supposed to be a “budget” deal, let’s talk about the money involved. The Republicans wanted $61 billion in cuts. Democrats gave them $38.5 billion.  That’s not exactly a 50-50 compromise.  More like 63-37.  Republicans won that one in a landslide.

So, let’s look at the “deal” in the budget deal.  What did the Democrats manage to extract from the Republicans in exchange for meeting them 63% of the way (some calculations have it at more than 70%) on the budget cuts?  Did Democrats get a tax increase on the rich?  Did they get an elimination of tax breaks for oil companies? 

Well, uh, no.  They didn’t get any agreement on revenues.  Nothing.

Oh, they did get Republicans to drop their ridiculous demands to defund Planned Parenthood, NPR, and the Affordable Care Act, and they did get them to drop the rider on stripping the EPA of regulatory authority on greenhouse gases.  But that’s not a victory, unless you think that it is a victory to pay a knife-wielding kidnapper the ransom he demands, as long as frees the hostage he’s holding.  If he gets away scot-free with the money, he won.  Period.

But in a way, the whole hostage-ransom metaphor explains why this play works so well for Republicans.  A real knife-wielding kidnapper, with his knife to the throat of the hostage, can be expected to use the knife to kill the hostage because presumably he doesn’t care about the hostage as much as he cares about the potential ransom.  The negotiators who pay him the ransom are under pressure from the hostage’s family and friends to give the kidnapper what he wants because they don’t want to see their loved one harmed.

Democrats, who believe in government, are fearful that Republicans, who are holding a knife against government’s throat, will actually use it. They worry that Republicans will slash government’s gullet if they don’t get what they want. Thus, Democrats are under pressure to pay the ransom.  Every time.  It happened last December.  It happened last night. 

The sad thing about all this is that after last December’s agreement on the Bush tax cuts and after last night’s budget deal, President Obama, rather than tell the American people the truth about what happened—that he had to give in to Republican demands or they would kill the hostage—”thanked” John Boehner for his “leadership” and “dedication.”  He said last night:

A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground.  Now the same cooperation will make possible the biggest annual spending cut in history, and it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead, from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our deficit. 

With this kind of attitude, as we move toward the real fight over the debt ceiling and next year’s budget, I’m not encouraged that some on our side—including President Obama–understand just how ruthless the current crop of GOP extremists are.  In fact, I’m quite discouraged today.  It doesn’t look good going forward.

In any case, you might remember how often Obama and the Democrats have told us that we need government spending—stimulus—first to start the recovery and then to keep it going until the economy could make it on its own.  We need government spending, not budget cuts, they have said time and time again.  The President has repeatedly said that now is not the time to pull back.  And there are plenty of economists who concur.

But even as Republicans this morning are insisting that the latest budget cuts are only a down payment on more to come, to show how even more depressing is the current state of affairs, I want to end with a quote from one of the parties in the latest budget deal, who said last night:

…beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs…

That wasn’t John Boehner or Michele Bachmann or Rand Paul.

That was Barack Obama.

Democrats, Abortion, And Cavemen

As it has become clear that the fight over this year’s budget is really a fight over Planned Parenthood and Roe v. Wade, now 38 years old, it has also become clear that the Democrats are worse negotiators than even I imagined.

I heard Steny Hoyer, the Democrats’ Number Two in the House, say

I think we’re very close. I think we’ve come 70 percent of the way in terms of dollars. That’s a long way to go in trying to reach compromise.

You think?  Giving the other side 70% is not compromise, it’s surrender. The Democrats have given 70% and what have Republicans given in return?  Hoyer:

…you can’t negotiate on the basis that one side gives 100% and the other side gives zero.

Oh, yes you can, Steny.  That’s what Democrats have been doing. The Republicans are counting on it to continue.  Democrats have given them no reason to think otherwise.

I heard NBC’s David Gregory, who should be ashamed of his journalistic self, say to Steny Hoyer, “It takes two sides to shut down the government. Aren’t you embarrassed?”  Now, Gregory knows what the dynamics of these “negotiations” have been.  He knows that Democrats have nearly surrendered.  But Gregory, like many journalists these days who are sensitive to the “liberal media” charge, asks the wrong guy the wrong question in a silly attempt to appear evenhanded, unbiased, objective.

In this case, Gregory is actually putting his thumb on the scale in favor of Republicans. He’s equating Republican obstinacy with Democratic flexibility.

What he should be reporting is what is happening: Democrats have given the Republicans a majority of the budget cuts they demanded, and Republicans, sensing a possible rout, have demanded even more, including the destruction of a long-time thorn in their moralistic side, Planned Parenthood.

What Gregory should have asked Hoyer was this: “Why has your side given so much and ask for so little in return?  Don’t Democrats owe their constituents a better fight than that?

You see, it’s very true that in order to negotiate it takes two sides who are willing to compromise, if by compromise one means each side giving something to get to a deal. But it also takes two sides who are not willing to compromise in order to get to a deal.

Each side has to know that the other has principles it will not discard, positions from which it will not retreat.  Otherwise, there is no incentive for the one principled party to abandon any of its demands.  That party knows that if it just holds out long enough, the other side will cave.

That’s where we are today.  Democrats are cavemen. 

But having said that, at last it appears that Republicans—who have stuck to their principles and got most of what they could have ever hoped for—may be finally pushing Democrats too far.  Perhaps it’s because Democrats have figured out that in order to reach a deal, they will simply have to sign off on HR 1, or perhaps it is that they now see that Republicans have overplayed their hand on the abortion issue.

Most folks can see that the abortion debate has nothing to do with the budget debate, and Democrats seem to understand that they can tie Republican inflexibility on the budget to ideological purity on a divisive cultural issue, which Democrats can use to woo independent voters.

I said, “Democrats seem to understand.” My fingers are crossed, as Democrats appear to be coming out of the cave.

[Reid-Boehner photo: Reuters]

Prediction: The Good Guys Will Blink

Even as the results of the Wisconsin Supreme Court race demonstrate that if Democrats will fight, they can win, we have the specter of President Obama trying to—politely—broker a deal on the budget in order to avoid a quasi-closing of the government.

Obama is so politely characterizing the current fight—essentially he keeps saying that “both sides” need to give a little, as if Democrats haven’t quite given enough—that it’s sometimes hard to tell which side he is on in this squabble.  He, as always in these kinds of things, plays the role of president of all the people and not some partisan out to slam the other side.

He is not, as Sean Hannity said last night, “gutless” or unwilling to fight. It’s just that he takes his job as president seriously. He has a genuine regard for the well-being of the country at large, not some parochial interest in his own ideological purity.

And while that is normally a good thing, in this case, it works against what he says he’s trying to do.

On Wednesday night, after he met with the principals, John Boehner and Harry Reid, Obama’s remarks included a mention of a Kentucky man named J. T. Henderson, who, the President said, needs his tax “rebate” to help his family, a rebate that might be jeopardized by a government shutdown.  Near the end of his statement, Obama ended with this:

There’s no reason why we should not be able to complete a deal.  There’s no reason why we should have a government shutdown — unless we’ve made a decision that politics is more important than folks like J.T. Henderson. 

Notice that “we” in there?  “Unless we’ve made a decision that politics is more important than folks like J. T. Henderson.”  Does Obama really think that Democrats and Republicans are equally indifferent to people like Mr. Henderson?  Huh?

Wouldn’t it help Mr. Henderson more by actually reminding the American people that it is in fact Republicans who won’t take yes for an answer and accept what Democrats are offering? Essentially, our side has given Boehner everything his leadership team originally proposed a few months ago.  That’s some savvy negotiation strategy on our part, isn’t it?  And that strategy only breeds more demands from the other side because they smell blood. 

Mr. Henderson’s blood.

For the record, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the two sides will reach a deal.  They will reach a deal because our side will give Tea Party Republicans—who apparently know how to play poker—even more of what they want.  I’m guessing the number will be around $35-38 billion, along with a watered down version of the EPA rider, which would delay implementation of any greenhouse gas regulations until a future date.  The Planned Parenthood rider would be dropped for now.

That’s what I think because I don’t have much confidence in our side’s brinkmanship.  John Boehner, who has been playing his hand like a good poker bluff, has fooled most of the cable talking heads. Boehner is torn, they say.  He is a trained dealmaker who wants to make a deal, they lament, but the Tea Party won’t let him. Even many of the Democrats talk this way.

But it’s all nonsense. 

Sure, Boehner isn’t exactly a spaced-out Michele Bachmann.  And sure, he is getting pressure from the extremists on his side.  And while he isn’t necessarily a radical, he nevertheless senses weakness in the Democratic position. The more he plays the agonized leader who is being held hostage by his hard-core members, the more Democrats keep giving him. He plays this beautifully.  And the media accentuate his theatrical agony.

In the end, he will emerge with a little more than the $33 billion Democrats have offered, and he can tell the Tea Party that he did the best he could and it’s time to move on.  If some rebel, he can still count on Democratic votes to pass the compromise and in two days, all will be forgotten, as the spotlight turns on Paul Ryan’s crazy budget plan and the looming fight over the debt ceiling.

There you have it. A prediction.

In this case, I hope I’m wrong about our side.  I hope they surprise me.  No, I hope they shock me.

Remarks And Asides

According to himself, conservative Globeblogger Anson Burlingame is going to work for the Obama administration as a consultant on “nuclear issues resulting from the Japanese quake and Tsunami.”

Now, I don’t know if the President himself called Anson to work for the Centers for Disease Control, but Obama does have a reputation for neutering his political enemies by appointing them to positions in his administration.

In any case, Mr. Burlingame offered a parting shot at yours truly:

But I will have my computer and will be watching carefully as local liberals try to destroy the country, piece by piece or blog by blog.

I hope you are as comforted as I am by the fact that Anson, who has such an odd relationship with reality, will be hard at work making us safe from Japanese radiation, or whatever it is he will be doing in Atlanta.


Hamstrung by Congress, the Obama Justice Department will now have to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay.  The announcement comes on the same day Obama is launching his 2012 campaign, a campaign, no doubt, that will feature less promises like the 2008 pledge to close Gitmo.  He promised. He tried. He failed.  

Ironically, Republicans, who are mostly—but not completely—responsible for this decision and who have demonstrated a lack of confidence in U.S. civilian courts, may have made it easier for KSM to avoid the death penalty (even if he doesn’t want to) because there is some legal uncertainty as to whether the tribunal can sentence him to death upon a guilty plea.

So, if KSM lives on at the expense of American taxpayers, we have the GOP to thank.

[KSM photo: AFP/Getty]


Joke Of the Day:  On Fox News Sunday, Paul Ryan, the GOP budget czar, said his soon-to-be-released plan for “saving” (it’s safe to read: “dismantling”) Medicare and Medicaid and “repairing” (it’s okay to read: “killing”) entitlements,

will be giving our political adversaries things to use against us in the next election—and shame on them if they do that.

Yes, shame on them for doing to Republicans what Republicans did to Democrats before the last election.  Remember how Democrats were slashing Medicare to pay for Obamacare?

In any case, why is Ryan so afraid, if his proposal will save the day?


Bonus Joke of the Day: Glenn Beck is “uncomfortable” with all that Trump-talk about Obama’s birthplace.  Leaving aside the strange fact that someone has actually out-Becked Beck, here is the joke:

On Bill O’Reilly’s show, Beck said, laughing all the way to Wells Fargo Bank,

The last thing the country needs is a showboat…I would hope we could get serious candidates who could shake things up by not saying provocative things…


According to Roll Call, John Boehner’s “top lieutenants”—Cantor, McCarthy and Hensarling—are warning him they can’t guarantee passage this week of the please-don’t-shut-down-the-government bill unless it has at least $40 billion in cuts.  And even that much may not work.  Some Tea Party Republicans are demanding the whole enchilada.

Democrats, who have been too quick to play this one on Republican budget-cutting turf, do seem to be sticking to their $33 billion offer and it is now likely that any deal with that number in it will have to pass the House with Democratic votes. 

All of that will mean that Boehner will lose face this time with the Tea Party and during the upcoming debt ceiling debate will have to try harder to prove to teapartiers that he is as mad—in both senses—as they are. 

That should be fun.

Remarks And Asides

Mitch McConnell, who at one time resisted the Tea Party temptation, has now succumbed and is apparently willing to drink a sweat Slurpee straight from Jim DeMint’s booty crack—with a short straw, mind you.

McConnell attacked Chuck Schumer today for accurately describing non-compromising Republicans as “extremists.”  McConnell said that Democrats are the real extremists.  Okay. I agree. Given the state of the budget discussions, congressional Democrats are extremely poor negotiators.  One might even say that if throwing in the towel were an Olympic sport, Democrats would be the Michael Phelps of surrender.

So far, they have managed to give Republicans more than half their budget cuts and have received next to nothing in return.  There must have been some sort of special election I missed.  When did the GOP grab control of the entire government again?


Donald Trump, God’s gift to atheists everywhere, says that the reason President Obama won’t produce yet another valid birth certificate is that he may be hiding his Muslimism.

I am embracing this issue,” he told MSNBC, “I’m proud of the issue…somebody has to embrace it.” 

Thank you, Jesus.

Trump, by the way, has finally produced a valid birth certificate of his own, which proves once and for all he was not a creation of the Democratic National Committee’s Avatar Division. Let’s face it, that division has its hands full, what with creating and animating Michele Bachmann.

And technicians are still fine-tuning the latest version of Newt Gingrich, a project began long go.  The investment in the Gingrich-bot has paid off handsomely over the years and Democratic programmers are promising even more useful Gingrich quotes as time goes by.


Speaking of Gingrich, I missed it last week when he criticized House Republicans for not being aggressive enough in the budget negotiations. On blabbing Hugh Hewitt’s talk show, he said Congressional Republicans should demand that President Obama give up his health reform law in exchange for Republicans agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.

I hate to admit it, but given the Democrats’ skill at negotiating, that might not be a bad strategy. If the GOP lawmakers try something like that, expect Democrats to counter-offer with a proposal to repeal those parts of the law already in effect and delay implementation of the rest until 3014.


An Indiana Republican state legislator said the following in a debate over a jobs highly restrictive abortion bill he introduced, to which an amendment was proposed to make an exception for victims of rape or incest:

…someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest…

To that outrageous pap, Democrat Rep. Linda Lawson, a former sex crimes investigator for the Indiana police, replied:

Women don’t make this up! My Goodness! This is the state of Indiana!

Yes, unfortunately, Ms. Lawson, it is.

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