Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo

Here is a headline from The Washington Post:

Poll: Major damage to GOP after shutdown, and broad dissatisfaction with government

The elements in this headline, the damage and the dissatisfaction, point to two things, two important things, that every American should understand about the conservative movement, as it is now constituted, in our country:

1) Conservatives have designed their own parallel universe, one in which facts like “Major damage to GOP after shutdown” can’t exist.

I think it is fair to say that Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity represent very well the core constituency of the conservative movement, don’t you? Well, here is what Sean Hannity said to Ann Coulter on Monday night:

All those people that were doomin’ and gloomin’ Repubicans for the shutdown were wrong.

And the classless Coulter said:

The shutdown was so magnificent, run beautifully. I’m so proud of these Republicans, and that is because they have branded the Republican party as the anti-Obamacare party.

So, it’s that easy. There was no damage done to the Republican Party. Poll? Poll smoll.

2) Creating “broad dissatisfaction with government” is the entire mission of the conservative movement.

In their parallel universe, conservatives rejoice over the second finding in that poll. They want people to be dissatisfied with government because they believe government is, as Ronald Reagan famously said, “the problem.”

One would have thought that anti-government, laissez-faire conservatism could never have come back after the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent Great Depression. It should have been dead forever. But it wasn’t. It came back in 1964 after its adherents forcefully took over the Republican Party, a feat that resulted in the shellacking of their uber-conservative candidate, Barry Goldwater, in the presidential election that year. The movement should have been permanently dead after that. But it wasn’t. As Thomas Frank wrote in The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation:

The conservatism that made such a huge comeback in the seventies and eighties was a mutation specifically adapted to survive a disaster of the 1929 variety. By which I do not mean that conservatism abandoned laissez-faire, its raison d’être, but that from now on it would present itself to the world as a form of opposition to the established order…It would wallow in preposterous theories about the secret treason of the ruling liberals and encourage the darkest imaginable interpretation of the government’s every deed…

Even as he presided over that hated federal government, Ronaldus Magnus, the tutelary deity of movement conservatism, said at a news conference in 1986:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

So, you can see why that headline in The Washington Post doesn’t bother zealous conservatives one bit. They deny the first fact, that much damage has been done to the Republican Party, and fully embrace the second.

Posted below is the conversation between Hannity and Coulter I referenced, in case you make a healthful habit out of not watching these folks live. But I think you should watch this five-minute segment because it tells you so much about why these people do what they do. Not only will you hear them denying reality and inventing their own, you will hear Sean Hannity repeating the lie about Consumer Reports, claiming that it is “telling people to stay away” from the ObamaCare website. That lie became so widespread—it even found its way into “straight” reporting—that Consumer Reports published an article titled,

Obamacare opponents have misrepresented Consumer Reports’ position

HealthCare.gov problems do not negate benefits of new health law

So, with that in mind, hear the echoes in the chamber:

How Ted Cruz May Save The Republican Party

Ezra Klein wrote a piece the other day titled, “If Ted Cruz didn’t exist, Democrats would have to invent  him.” The great Ezra ended with this:

Over the last 24 hours I’ve seen some Republicans complaining that President Obama and the Democrats are trying to break them. Their anger is misplaced. They should be angry at Ted Cruz for putting Republicans in a position to be broken.

I am sure there are many Republicans who are angry at Ted Cruz. But one of them isn’t Mitch McConnell. In fact, if Ted Cruz didn’t exist, Mitch McConnell would have to invent him. Why? Because Cruz has done what I didn’t think it was possible to do: make McConnell look good in comparison.

Mitch McConnell is as shrewd as he is slimy. And anyone, even a Ted Cruz, who can make the greasy craftiness of the Republican Senate Minority Leader look like adult reasonableness is now an asset to a Republican Party that is in desperate need of a public relations makeover. And the extreme behavior of Ted Cruz, Jim DeMint, and that strange gaggle of goofy zealots in the House of Representatives have allowed the establishment extremists, people like McConnell and Orrin Hatch and others, to come off sounding like voices of reason.

This development, my friends, should trouble Democrats.

McConnell, who has been a part of the Republican wrecking crew, has now assured the country there will be no more government shutdowns. Ahh. Ain’t that nice? Hatch, who is about as conservative a man as one would ever want to meet, called out DeMint’s groupthink tank, the Heritage Foundation. How great was that? Other Republicans, right-wingers all, have denounced the tactics of torpedo-toting teapartiers and are getting credit for doing so from the Beltway press corps.

One might be tempted to think that such behavior is a good thing, particularly a good thing for the country. But in this case it’s not, unless we all want to live in a society governed by ultra-conservative, if not ultra-nutty, policymakers. The reason that what we see happening on the right may spell trouble for Democrats and ultimately for the country is pretty simple. It’s all tied to the concept of triangulation. Let me borrow an image from Wikipedia’s entry on it:

What we will soon see, as 2014 gets here or before, are Republicans like McConnell (who is up for reelection next year and who is hoping to become Majority Leader if his party can win six extra Senate seats) trying to put themselves firmly, if falsely, on that “middle ground.” They will first confess that shutting down the government to defund ObamaCare was extreme behavior. Then they will concede that threatening the full faith and credit of the country was also out of line. They will then pivot to and run on two issues: anxiety over ObamaCare and anxiety over the national debt. They will say that there has been extreme behavior on both sides, but now the real threat to the country is with Democrats, who want to impose on the public a monster bureaucracy—an imposition that is now off to a horrendous start—and who want to raise more taxes and spend more money despite the $17 trillion debt we face.

While all this triangulating is going on next year, the anti-establishment extremists like Ted Cruz and the reactionary, recalcitrant radicals in the House will continue to do what it is they do. But increasingly more “adult” Republicans will speak out against them, posing as moderates who just want to tame the bureaucracy and get a handle on our debt. In reality, though, they share the goals, including many of the same social issue goals, of the anti-establishment radicals. They differ mainly in the strategy and tactics necessary to achieve them. And as time passes and the campaigns begin, money from business interests will flow into the coffers of non-Tea Party Republicans, money that once poured into the campaigns of those anti-establishment right-wingers who have caused much of the dysfunction we see today.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all this will be easy for Republicans to accomplish, particularly because Democrats have a lot of ammunition with which to fight back, mainly the ability to tie McConnell and other Republicans to Tea Party radicalism. But the triangulation strategy represents the best way Republicans have for winning the Senate and for keeping the House in Republican hands, especially if the press continues to present McConnell and other establishment extremists as the adults in the room.

As for 2016, such triangulation is how Chris Christie will, I predict, eventually win the Republican nomination for president. (He has already begun to use a version of the strategy and right-wing donors are anxious to dump truckloads of cash on him.)  Some people believe that the governor of New Jersey, who dared put his arm around Hussein Obama during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, is too disliked by primary-dominating conservatives to get the nomination. But how soon we forget that John McCain and Mitt Romney were also hated by those same conservatives. All it takes to get these people on board, albeit reluctantly, is the idea that Republicans can actually win a national election and achieve the power necessary to undo the damage that the Kenyan socialist has done to the country. It will also become obvious that most of the money men on the right, unfettered by campaign finance laws, are betting on Christie.

And should Chris Christie win not only the GOP primary but the national election, and should Republicans also win control of both houses of Congress, look out. A President Christie would be, in terms of the things Democrats hold dear, a very radical president indeed. Whether it is cutting rich people’s taxes, cutting government services and social programs, deregulating the economy, decimating unions, rolling back reproductive and gay rights, or any number of things on the reactionaries’ wish list, Christie and a Christie-friendly Congress could change the country in ways Ted Cruz only dreams of.

And, alas, all of it could happen thanks to him.

We Now Know How Many Dangerous Radicals There Are In Congress

Here is the sad reality facing the country:

The final vote in Congress to temporarily open the government and to temporarily preserve the full faith and credit of the United States:

House of Representatives: 285 in favor (198 Democrats and 87 Republicans) and 144 against (all Republicans).

Senate: 81 in favor (52 Democrats, 27 Republicans, 2 Independents) and 18 against (all Republicans).

Thus: We now know there are at least 144 Tea Party radicals in the House (62% of all Republicans) and at least 18 Tea Party radicals in the Senate (40% of all Republicans). That’s about 58% of all congressional Republicans. Think about that: 58% of all congressional Republicans are nutty enough to wreck the economy in the name of Tea Party radicalism.

Let me repeat: Nearly 6 in 10 of the current complement of Republicans in Congress are radical enough to not only shutdown the government and keep it closed, but radical enough to severely damage the credit worthiness of the our centuries-old Republic and blow a hole in the economy.

God bless America.

Odds and ends:

♦ Democrats, once again, saved the country from utter chaos and ignominy.

♦ My own congressman, Ozark Billy Long, voted with the radicals. He obviously doesn’t give a damn about the viability of government or the full faith and credit of the United States. But the local paper and local television news outlets will never question him about his irresponsible vote or hold him accountable for it.

♦ Every single Missouri Republican in the House voted with the zealots. Yes, every one of them.

♦ A strange woman, apparently an official House stenographer, began yelling on the floor of the House during last night’s vote, saying something about our Freemason Constitution and that God will not be mocked. Poor lady. God is mocked every day in that Republican-controlled chamber and obviously since God has thus far failed to stop the mockery, she thought she’d give him a hand.

♦ After the Republican surrender, Rush Limbaugh now says the Republican Party is “irrelevant” and “made a decision not to exist.” God, for once I hope he’s right.

♦ The quack masquerading as a doctor on Fox “News,” Keith Ablow, said that President Obama’s language about the GOP “holding the whole country hostage” is simply the President “going back to when his dad abandoned him, when his mother left him with his grandparents.” Obama is, said the quack, extending his victimization “to this country.” Just part of another day of fair and balanced broadcasting on the Republican News Channel.

♦ Georgia congressman Jack Kingston told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes last night that the estimated $24 or 25 billion or so that the government shutdown and debt default scare cost the American people was worth it because it allowed Republicans to send a message to the public that they don’t like ObamaCare. I don’t think such stupidity needs any additional commentary from me.

♦ Club for Growth and Heritage Action and Freedom Works all put out an alert on the vote, warning legislators they would be using it to score their loyalty to Tea Party conservatism. We know it worked because of the 62% of House Republicans who followed the zealous lobbying groups and the 40% of Senate Republicans who did so. If that doesn’t scare you, you are unscareable. Right wing lobbyists are slowly ruining the country.

♦ We now know that Tea Party Conservatism doesn’t believe in personal responsibility—they oppose the individual mandate in ObamaCare that the Heritage Foundation originally championed—or in national responsibility—they voted to say to hell with paying the country’s bills. What kind of conservatism is that? If Edmund Burke were alive, he would fall over dead.

♦ How petty are these extremists? Look at this:
russert tweet

Obama’s “victory speech” was, of course, not a victory speech. He could have rubbed it in the faces of these extremists, but he didn’t. Why? Because unlike his political enemies, he has class.

♦ I want to mention one particular senator who gets much credit for being a reasonable Republican. He ain’t. His name is Tom Coburn and he’s a right-wing freak. He has been a cheerleader for not raising the debt ceiling. As Huff Po reported:

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) voted with Cruz, but nevertheless said he thought the fiasco had been entirely predictable because it was obvious Democrats and the president would never end Obamacare, and they control two of the three relevant parts of government. He had a tart piece of advice for Cruz and others: “Have a coordinated strategy that’s based on reality rather than one that’s not.”

Coburn voted with Cruz and then advised him to have a strategy based on reality? Thank God Coburn is getting the hell out of the Senate. He has lost his mind.

♦ Finally, for the record, here are all the Republicans who voted against the shutdown-debt ceiling deal. May their names live on in utter infamy:

HOUSE:

Robert B. Aderholt (AL) Justin Amash (MI) Mark Amode (NV) Michele Bachmann (MN) Andy Barr (KY) Joe L. Barton (TX) Kerry Bentivolio (MI) Rob Bishop (UT) Diane Black (TN) Marsha Blackburn (TN) Kevin Brady (TX) Jim Bridenstine (OK) Mo Brooks (AL) Paul Broun (GA) Larry Bucshon (IN) Michael C. Burgess (TX) John Campbell (CA) John Carter (TX) Bill Cassidy (LA) Steven J. Chabot (OH) Jason Chaffetz (UT) Chris Collins (NY) Doug Collins (GA). Michael Conaway (TX) John Culberson (TX) Ron DeSantis (FL) Jeffrey Denham (CA) Scott DesJarlais (TN) Sean Duffy (WI) Jeffrey Duncan (SC) John J. Duncan Jr.(TN) Renee Ellmers (NC) Blake Farenthold (TX) Stephen Fincher (TN) Chuck Fleischmann (TN) John Fleming (LA) Bill Flores (TX) Randy Forbes (VA) Virginia Foxx (NC) Trent Franks (AZ) Scott Garrett (NJ) Bob Gibbs (OH) Phil Gingrey (GA) Louie Gohmert (TX) Robert W. Goodlatte (VA) Paul Gosar (AZ) Trey Gowdy (SC) Kay Granger (TX) Sam Graves (MO) Tom Graves (GA) Morgan Griffith (VA) Ralph M. Hall (TX) Andy Harris (MD) Vicky Hartzler (MO) Jeb Hensarling (TX) George Holding (NC) Richard Hudson (NC) Tim Huelskamp (KS) Bill Huizenga (MI) Randy Hultgren (IL) Duncan D. Hunter (CA) Robert Hurt (VA) Bill Johnson (OH) Sam Johnson (TX) Walter B. Jones (NC) Jim Jordan (OH) Steve King (IA) Jack Kingston (GA) Doug LaMalfa (CA) Raul Labrador (ID) Doug Lamborn (CO) James Lankford (OK) Robert E. Latta (OH) Billy Long (MO) Frank D. Lucas (OK) Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO) Cynthia M. Lummis (WY) Kenny Marchant (TX) Tom Marino (PA) Thomas Massie (KY) Michael McCaul (TX) Tom McClintock (CA) Mark Meadows (NC) Luke Messer (IN) John L. Mica (FL) Candice S. Miller (MI) Jeff Miller (FL) Markwayne Mullin (OK) Mick Mulvaney (RC) Randy Neugebauer (TX) Kristi Noem (SD) Richard Nugent (FL) Alan Nunnelee (MS) Pete Olson (TX) Steven Palazzo (MS) Steve Pearce (NM) Scott Perry (PA) Tom Petri (WI) Joe Pitts (PA) Ted Poe (TX) Mike Pompeo (KS) Bill Posey (FL) Tom Price (GA) Trey Radel (FL) Tom Reed (NY) Jim Renacci (OH) Tom Rice (SC) Martha Roby (AL) Phil Roe (TN) Mike D. Rogers (AL) Dana Rohrabacher (CA) Todd Rokita (IN) Tom Rooney (FL) Dennis Ross (FL) Keith Rothfus (PA) Ed Royce (CA) Paul D. Ryan (WI) Matt Salmon (AZ) Mark Sanford (SC) Steve Scalise (LA) David Schweikert (AZ) Austin Scott (GA)  James Sensenbrenner (WI) Pete Sessions (TX) Jason Smith (MO) Lamar Smith (TX) Steve Southerland (FL) Chris Stewart (UT) Steve Stockman (TX) Marlin Stutzman (IN) William M. Thornberry (TX) Michael R. Turner (OH) Ann Wagner (MO) Tim Walberg (MI) Greg Walden (OR) Jackie Walorski (IN) Randy Weber (TX) Brad Wenstrup (OH) Lynn Westmoreland (GA) Roger Williams (TX) Joe Wilson (SC) Rob Woodall (GA) Kevin Yoder (KS) Ted Yoho (FL)

SENATE:

Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Cornyn (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Dean Heller (Nev.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Pat Roberts (Kansas), Jim Risch (Idaho), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), David Vitter (La.).

If you ever hear any of these people raging against wasteful government spending (as Tom Coburn does every time he opens his mouth) or droning on about the national debt, you can tell them to go straight to hell, as they voted to waste billions of dollars, break the legs of the economy, and thereby significantly increase the national debt.

Bring The Weapons Inspectors To Washington

Okay. It appears the hostages are about to be released. The kidnappers didn’t quite have the nerve to shoot the hostages in the head, although they did rough them up pretty good.

No one knows exactly how much the Republican-engineered crisis will ultimately cost the country, although Bloomberg has estimated that the 16-day government shutdown has been “draining an average of $160 million each workday,” and that’s not counting the costs associated with investors dumping short-term Treasury bills, the safest investment in the world—at least they used to be.

And how do you figure in the cost of disintegrating morale among federal employees, many of whom were labeled as “non-essential,” many of whom have worked without a raise for three years and have had to take sequestration-related furloughs even before the latest shutdown?

And how do you figure in the cost of the damage inflicted on our national prestige? How do you calculate the damage done to our sense of stability? How do you account for the damage done to our confidence in self-governance, in democracy?

And what was it all for? What was accomplished by Tea Party Republicans and the non-Tea Party Republicans who aided and abetted them? Nothing. Not a damn thing. And to make things worse, we will quite likely be back here again at the beginning of next year. Yippee.

Warren Buffett said this morning about flirting with not raising the debt ceiling:

There are certain weapons that are just improper to use against humanity, and to use this against the American public, it is a political weapon of mass destruction and both sides should say we’re not going to touch it, just like poison gas…

Perhaps, after they are finished in Syria, we could get the recent Nobel Peace Prize winners, those amazing inspectors who make up the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to come to America and dismantle the crazy law that prevents the Treasury Department from paying the country’s bills unless Congress raises the debt ceiling.

Yes, that’s it. Once the inspectors are done in Syria, where a desperate leader used poison gas on his own citizens, maybe they can come here and do their humanitarian work.

poison gas

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]

Sgt. Joseph M. Peters, R.I.P. — Rep. Billy Long, Shame On You

I don’t know what’s worse: Republicans shutting down the government and thereby shutting down the government’s ability to pay death benefits to the mourning families of fallen soldiers, or Republicans shutting down the government and then claiming they are “working to ensure our nation’s military families are not forgotten in their time of need.” 

That last quote is from Ozark Billy Long, my congressman. It seems the results of the government shutdown he helped engineer have hit very close to home, namely in Springfield, Missouri, where Billy Long lives. From the Springfield News-Leader:

Lawmakers introduced a bill today to provide a death benefit to the families of soldiers killed — including Joseph M. Peters from Springfield — that stopped last week when the government shut down.

Rep. Billy Long’s office said the congressman is co-sponsoring the Fallen Heroes and Families Assistance Act, which his office says ensures future death benefits will not be delayed because of the government shutdown.

Yes, you read that right. Billy Long is “co-sponsoring” a bill to fix what he and his Tea Party friends mucked up and he acts like he is a hero for doing so. What a piece of work is my Republican congressman.

For your information and as a reminder of what a real hero is made of, I will post here a report from Officer.com on the death of Joseph M. Peters:

A special agent with the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division was among four soldiers killed in an attack in Afghanistan on Sunday.

Sgt. Joseph M. Peters succumbed to injuries sustained when his unit encountered an improvised explosive device in the Kandahar Province, according to a news release.

The 24-year-old Springfield, Mo. native was assigned to the 286th Military Police Detachment, 5th Military Police Battalion in Vicenza, Italy.

Peters was the first special agent for CID to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Also killed in the attack were 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno, Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins, and Pfc. Cody J. Patterson.

“Special Agent Peters was a highly respected agent and soldier who sacrificed his life in the defense of this nation,” Major General David Quantock, the Provost Marshal General of the United States Army and Commanding General of the United States Army Criminal Investigation Command said in a statement.

“We are extremely proud of his service and what he accomplished as a CID Special Agent and as a Soldier. His death is a reminder to all of us of the unequaled contributions our military members and their families make on a daily basis in the defense of the freedoms that we all enjoy and value so dearly.”

Peters was a member of the U.S. Army for six years and had served two deployments in Iraq before being assigned to Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife and 20-month-old son.

He was posthumously awarded the Combat Action Badge, Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

In a related story, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which reportedly is the nation’s largest such group, is calling on President Obama to fix the mess Republicans have made:

“Mr. President, yes, you warned Congress in advance, and yes, they are responsible for continuing the government shut-down. But please take the higher ground and initiate executive action to pay for all related expenses for the funeral arrangements of our fallen hero, Special Agent Joseph Peters, and all our fallen military heroes,” FLEOA National President Jon Adler said in a statement.

“The government is responsible for all expenses and payments on behalf of our fallen heroes who protect life and property; not just their salaries. There is no greater priority for our government.”

Amen.

[U.S. Army photo]

Two Reasons Why Boehner Is The Problem

Before too many events intervene and before we get to the end of the shutdown-default mess—if there is an end to it—two flaws in John Boehner’s character, or at least defects in his ability to lead the House of Representatives, must be examined and remembered:

1. Boehner’s Word Isn’t His Bond

Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid revealed that Boehner had reneged on a private deal the two had previously made over the Continuing Resolution, the stopgap fund-the-government bill that didn’t get passed and led to the government shutdown. As The Hill reported:

Reid said Boehner never wanted to wage a protracted battle over ObamaCare as part of the negotiations to keep the government running.

“I know that that’s not the path he preferred,” Reid said. “I know that because we met the first week we came back in September and he told me that what he wanted was a clean CR and the $988 [billion] number. 

“We didn’t like the 988 number. We didn’t like it but we negotiated. That was our compromise,” Reid added. “The exact bill that he now refuses to let the House vote on. That was our negotiation.”

Moreover:

Reid said he didn’t have to twist Boehner’s arm to get a preliminary deal on a clean stopgap.

“He twisted mine a little bit to get that number,” Reid said.

“Now he refused to let his own party vote because he’s afraid to stand up to something he originally agreed to,” he added.

So, clearly Boehner’s word is no good and if a man’s word is no good how can anyone bargain with him? (The Speaker has had a pattern of such untrustworthy behavior. See here and here, for instance.)

2. Boehner’s Dishonesty Is Breathtaking

Before he shamefully began to demagogue the issue of the “exemption” from ObamaCare for Congress and its staff—which is not an exemption at all—Boehner personally and secretly asked Democrats for help in protecting the employer contribution for health insurance premiums (misleadingly called “subsidies”) for congressional lawmakers and staff (the staff members definitely in need of the employer contribution, even if some lawmakers, those with lots of money, aren’t).

First a little background on this ridiculous issue from USA Today:

During the 2010 debate over the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, proposed an amendment requiring members of Congress and their staffs to purchase health insurance though state exchanges. Democrats, viewing the amendment as a political stunt, co-opted the idea as their own and inserted it into the bill.

But the provision was silent about who would pay for that insurance, or how those payments would be treated. The exchanges were intended for uninsured people who couldn’t get health insurance through their employer or qualify for Medicaid. Those who had access to health benefits meeting minimum coverage levels could still purchase insurance on the exchanges — but without a subsidy and using after-tax income.

Holding members of Congress and their staffs to that standard would have the effect of stripping them of the employer-paid health coverage they currently get, which is the same as any other federal employee. So the Office of Personnel Management issued a proposed rule in August making clear that the government would continue to pay the employer contribution for congressional health benefits at the same rate as if members were still on the federal plan.

Grassley now says that was his intent all along. “My goal, regardless of how the amendment was worded … was that we need to go into the exchange so that we would have to go through the same red tape as every other citizen,” he told Roll Call Thursday. But because of what Grassley called a “drafting error,” the amendment left out language that would have explicitly given lawmakers the same before-tax employer contribution as any other federal employee gets.

Some of Grassley’s Republican colleagues have a different interpretation. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., introduced an unsuccessful amendment to the spending bill that would have required members of Congress to pay the full cost of their health care.

What ultimately caused this demagogue-friendly problem is that Democrats foolishly allowed Grassley’s ill-conceived and poorly-written amendment to become part of the law and when it became clear how confused and confusing the amendment was, members of both parties sought to get relief from its potential impact. But the demagogues, like David Vitter and others, saw a political advantage in exploiting the confusion. Enter John Boehner. Politico reported:

With the federal government nearing shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner stood on the House floor Monday and called on his colleagues to vote for a bill banning a “so-called exemption” that lawmakers and staffers receive for their health insurance.

“Why don’t we make sure that every American is treated just like we are?” Boehner asked, seeking to prohibit members of Congress and Capitol Hill aides from getting thousands of dollars in subsidies for their health insurance as they join Obamacare-mandated insurance exchanges.

Yet behind-the-scenes, Boehner and his aides worked for months with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), and others, to save these very same, long-standing subsidies, according to documents and e-mails provided to POLITICO. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was also aware of these discussions, the documents show.

So, we have the Speaker privately doing one thing and publicly doing another, cynically using hard-working congressional staff members as pawns in the game he is playing on behalf of Tea Party crazies.

Given these two stunning examples of a lack of integrity and a lack of honesty on the part of the Speaker of the House, Democrats should have little sympathy for him and should continue to let him twist in the wind of condemnation that is blowing into the Republican House. We can only hope that the Speaker will, in the end, have enough patriotism in his bones not to let the country default on its obligations, even if he has defaulted on his.

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.

Punching Up

By now most readers of this blog have seen the video clip of Republican congressman Randy Neugebauer (from, where else, Texas) berating a U.S. Park Service Ranger at the now-closed WW II memorial in Washington. Liberals have rightly focused on it as an example of outrageous right-wing hypocrisy, since Neugebauer couldn’t wait to shut down the government, which, among other things, led to the closing of all national parks.

(By the way, just to give you an idea of the kind of reactionary freak Neugebauer is, not only does he have doubts about the President’s birthplace, but he was formerly famous for yelling “Baby killer!” on the House floor back in 2010, as Democratic congressman Bart Stupak was speaking during a debate on the Affordable Care Act. So this wealthy West Texas Republican hasn’t exactly been oozing decency during his career.)

In case you haven’t seen it, or to refresh your memory of the classlessness of Neugebauer, here is the video clip of the shutdown-happy congressman confronting the government employee just doing her job after the Republican Party made doing her job necessary:

SHUTDOWN HAPPY CONGRESSMAN: How do you look at them and… deny them access? I don’t get that.

DIGNIFIED PARK RANGER: It’s difficult.

SHUTDOWN HAPPY CONGRESSMAN: Well, it should be difficult.

DIGNIFIED PARK RANGER: It is difficult. I’m sorry, sir.

SHUTDOWN HAPPY CONGRESSMAN: The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves.

DIGNIFIED PARK RANGER: I’m not ashamed.

SHUTDOWN HAPPY CONGRESSMAN: You should be.

Now, we can all agree that this particular park ranger, by keeping her composure and maintaining her dignity, showed just how boorish the congressman is. And I submit that his very public exercise of such boorishness is based on a simple dynamic: the congressman believes that, since he is a powerful federal legislator and she a lowly park ranger, he is entitled to address her as if she were one of his minions, someone he can kick around whenever he feels like it, especially in order to make what he thinks is an awesome political point.

As I said, liberals have made much of this confrontation and to great effect. However, one liberal said something on Hardball with Chris Matthews that has bothered me ever since I heard it, and it sort of plays into the idea that politicians sit way up there on a hierarchy of importance compared to others.

On Thursday, Matthews’ guests for his segment on Neugebauer were two liberals, the excellent Karen Finney and the the sometimes-not-so-excellent Richard Wolffe. Matthews and Finney and Wolffe mostly got it right: the congressman was way out of line and should “be ashamed” of himself, while praising the park ranger for “standing up to him.” But then Wolffe, after noting that Neugebauer was “not a good politician” for doing what he did, said his mistake was this:

You don’t punch down. You know, you find your equal. Pick on someone your own size.

Okay, I understand that Wolffe is a political journalist and commentator. I understand that he was talking about the political stupidity of a congressman practicing bad politics by getting into a scruff with a park ranger, but something about the idea that Wolffe expressed just bothered the hell out of me.

Maybe it’s because I am a retired federal worker. Maybe it’s because I resent the fact that some people think that government service rendered by, say, a park ranger or a postal worker is inferior to government service rendered by a rich Republican congressman from Texas, who is rendering his government service by shutting down the government. But besides just bothering me, what Wolffe said is plainly wrong.

As it turned out, Neugebauer was not punching down at all. If he were punching down he would have knocked the hell out of that park ranger. But that’s not what happened. He was punching up. He was doing battle with someone who was bigger than he was, someone who was actually fulfilling her duties as a public servant, who had the dignity and courage to say with authenticity,

I’m not ashamed.

That park ranger stood there in triumph over someone who thought he was better than she was, who thought he could push her around. The congressman was the one who had to leave the scene in disgrace. And in that sense Richard Wolffe was right. Next time the congressman should find someone his own size to pick on.

A Debt Ceiling Tale

Once upon a time, a tugboat captain, let’s call him Captain Cruz, had a plan to pull a very large and disabled ship, let’s call it the U.S.S. Government, toward Niagara Falls. The plan was to get an admiral aboard the large ship, let’s call him Admiral Obama, to pay the tugboat crew a ransom or else the large ship would go over the falls and crash into the rocks below.

The captain’s plan, bewildering to people on the large ship, nevertheless sounded good to the tugboat’s small crew, and the captain presented it with such confidence and swagger that the whole crew went along with it, even though some of them had their doubts about how the plan might work and some of them had suspicions about the captain’s motives.

The odd thing about Captain Cruz was that he really wasn’t the captain of the tugboat at all. He sort of took over for the real captain, who was a poor leader and wasn’t highly respected by the crew. But the real captain, let’s call him Captain Boehner, didn’t want to completely lose face with his crew, so he pretended he had wanted to pull the U.S.S. Government toward Niagara Falls all along and pretended that he was still in command of the tugboat.

Now, it came to pass that Admiral Obama was in no mood to pay a ransom to the tugboat crew. After all, he recognized that if he did so, if he gave the tugboat crew what it wanted, they would come back time after time, like Somali pirates, until the entire U.S.S. Government was looted of its treasure. Admiral Obama stood firm and told Captain Cruz, Captain Boehner, and the entire tugboat crew that he would not give into their demands. Ever.gop tugboat

It soon became clear to the tugboat crew that the plan that Captain Cruz had devised wasn’t working very well. In fact, some of the crew realized that the closer the tugboat pulled the U.S.S. Government to the falls, the harder it would be to push it back, since the waters leading to the falls were very turbulent. Besides that, some among the crew began to realize that if they were pulling the U.S.S. Government toward the falls, that would mean they and their tugboat would go over first! One among the crew, getting anxious, said after lunch one day,

It was very evident to everyone in the room that Cruz doesn’t have a strategy – he never had a strategy, and could never answer a question about what the end-game was.

Ahh. The crew was beginning to understand just how foolish the plan was and some were looking for a way out of the trouble they had created. They wanted Admiral Obama to offer them something they could call a victory so they could turn the ship around and get back to calmer waters. One among the crew, a devilishly proud sailor, was overheard saying,

We’re not going to be disrespected. We’ve got to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.

And here is where the telling of this tale must now stop. Because the ending has yet to be written.

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huffpo on shutdown

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