Rock Bottom

Some people thought Tr-mp’s attack on John McCain in July of 2015 was the lowest anyone, especially someone aspiring to be president, could go. “He’s not a war hero,” Tr-mp said of McCain. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” 

Now, there have been plenty of political reasons to attack John McCain over the years, as far as I’m concerned. And I’ve done so. But to attack him simply on the basis of his being captured by the enemy, when he was serving in a war that Tr-mp aggressively avoided, is a low point for anyone. But it didn’t represent the bottom for Tr-mp.

Flash forward a summer after that shameful strike against McCain. In July of 2016, Tr-mp began his attack on Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq in 2004 and posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. The Khans had made the grave mistake of criticizing Tr-mp’s Muslim ban at the Democratic National Convention. Khizr Khan had said to Tr-mp, as he proudly waved a pocket Constitution in front of the crowd and television audience:

Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

While all of that was absolutely true, and while it was said by a father who had lost his son in combat for this country, that didn’t stop Tr-mp from first attacking Mrs. Kahn by playing on a Muslim stereotype that Tr-mp likely saw on right-wing Twitter:

If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.

Well, of course she was allowed to say anything she wanted. It was just that, as she had explained the day before Tr-mp’s bigoted attack, she was still grieving over her son. “I cannot even come in the room where his pictures are,” she said. But Tr-mp wasn’t finished. He compared his sacrifices to the Kahns:

I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.

The founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Peter Rieckoff, said of such unempathetic drivel:

For anyone to compare their ‘sacrifice’ to a Gold Star family member is insulting, foolish and ignorant. Especially someone who has never served himself and has no children serving. Our country has been at war for a decade and a half, and the truth is most Americans have sacrificed nothing. Most of them are smart and grounded enough to admit it.

Being neither smart nor grounded in anything outside his complex of disorders, Tr-mp had hit a new low. He had attacked a Gold Star family. But he still had not hit bottom. That momentous milestone he saved for his response to the death, on October 4, of 25-year-old U.S. Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was, according to the Pentagon, “a part of a joint U.S. and Nigerien train, advise and assist mission” in southwest Niger.

Three other Green Berets—Army Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Army Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Army Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia—died with Sgt. Johnson. But it was the way Tr-mp apparently spoke to Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, and the way Tr-mp has responded to criticism of his attempt to console her, as well as his cynical attacks on President Obama and his inserting the death of John Kelly’s son (Second Lt. Robert Kelly, killed in Afghanistan in 2010) into the mix, that constitutes rock bottom, in terms of how low Tr-mp can go.

Simply put, he can’t go any lower. I don’t care what else he does, in terms of corrupting American norms, it won’t get worse than this.

After initially lying about President Obama’s handling of the deaths of U.S. soldiers, Tr-mp said to Fox’s Brian Kilmeade:

You could ask General Kelly, ‘Did he get a call from Obama?’”

As has been widely reported, President Obama invited Kelly and his wife to a White House breakfast honoring Gold Star families in 2011. The two sat at Michelle Obama’s table. Also, as The New York Times noted, people who worked with Kelly at the Pentagon at the time his son was killed “did not recall him expressing unhappiness with the way Mr. Obama handled the death of his son.” Purely as a logistical matter, during times when casualties are much higher than they are now, it isn’t possible for presidents to call all the families of those who have been killed in combat. The Times suggested that picking and choosing “could also raise questions about why one family merited a call but another did not.”

As for how Tr-mp handled the call to Myeshia Johnson—who was on her way to receive her husband’s body when the call came in—we will never know exactly what happened. In the car with Mrs. Johnson was a Florida congresswoman, Rep. Frederica Wilson, who first brought her version of what happened to national attention because the call was on speakerphone. The New York Times put it this way:

Ms. Wilson said that during the call, the president told Ms. Johnson “something to the fact that he knew what he was getting into when he signed up,” the congresswoman said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday.

“But that’s not the worst part,” Ms. Wilson said. “She was crying the whole time and when she hung up the phone she looked at me and said ‘he didn’t even remember his name.’ That’s the hurting part.”

On CNN Tuesday night, Rep. Wilson elaborated:

She has just lost her husband, she was just told that he cannot have an open casket funeral which gives her all kinds of nightmares how his body must look, how his face must look, and this is what the president of the United States says to her?

Tr-mp, of course, couldn’t just leave it alone. Or he couldn’t just say, “Hey, I’m sorry if my remarks were misunderstood.” Instead, he said via Twitter early Wednesday morning:

Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!

When he was asked a short time later about the matter by reporters (just before a meeting with the Senate Finance Committee on his ridiculous tax heist), he said—with Claire McCaskill unfortunately sitting by his side—the following about Congresswoman Wilson’s claim:

Didn’t say what that congresswoman said. Didn’t say it at all. She knows it and she now is not saying it. I did not say what she said, and I’d like her to make the statement again because I did not say what she said. I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife, who sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren’t too surprised to hear that.

He was then asked about the proof he claimed he had. He replied:

Let her make her statement again and then you’ll find out.

He said that twice. And Rep. Wilson quickly tweeted a response:

I stand my account of the call with @realDonaldTrump and was not the only one who heard and was dismayed by his insensitive remarks.

Later, Sgt. Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, corroborated the congresswoman’s account via Facebook:

Yes, he did state that comment.

Obviously, there is no “proof” as Tr-mp claimed. There’s nothing but his word, and the words of those who have demonstrated a willingness to lie for him, against the words of others. It’s quite possible that an awkward Tr-mp awkwardly tried to express what he thought was sympathy. But sympathy and empathy are strangers to him. He wouldn’t even know if he said the wrong thing because he has no right thing in his mind to compare it to. But none of that is really the point.

The real rock-bottom offense here is that we have a man, pretending to be president, who has broken perhaps the last taboo that almost all Americans acknowledge: don’t disrespect those who have given the last full measure of devotion. Is it too much to ask of such a man to honor fallen soldiers by a dignified silence, even if he feels personally slighted by something a congresswoman or a family member said? Is that really too much to ask? Is it too much to ask of a man who has stupidly started a fight with black NFL players—whom he accuses of disrespecting the country by simply kneeling during the national anthem—to avoid starting a fight around a quasi-sacred duty of the commander-in chief? Is it?

Whether he was misunderstood, whether he garbled words of consolation, what he did after that is as shameful as anything he has done. He didn’t just attempt to politicize a soldier’s death, as many have charged. He did more than that. He has shredded what’s left of the dignity of the office he holds by dishonoring the sacrifice of a man who left behind a mother, a pregnant wife, and two little children.

We know Tr-mp can’t help himself. He is sick. His very presence in the White House is a perversion. But the fact that he will continue on in that job, the fact that our system seems powerless to remove him no matter what he does, is a more profound perversion than perhaps any of us want to admit.

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Follow-Up On “That Thing”

In a post yesterday about former FBI Director James Comey’s statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I focused on one question I would have asked Comey. It had to do with the last conversation Comey ever had with Tr-mp, on April 11, in which Tr-mp said:

Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.

I wrote yesterday:

…my attention was directed at Comey’s lack of interest, or curiosity, in what Tr-mp meant by “that thing.” That lack of curiosity to find out what Tr-mp meant seems very odd to me, especially in the context of  Tr-mp’s “I have been very loyal to you, very loyal” preface. Comey says he “did not reply or ask him what he meant.” Why? Why wouldn’t the FBI Director, who clearly by the time of this call was worried about interference from Tr-mp, not want to know what “that thing” meant?

Now, I watched the hearing for two and a half hours and after all that time no one had yet bothered to ask him anything about what I considered a crucial matter. It was crucial because, as I put it,

It appears to me Tr-mp was directly suggesting that he had some “understanding” with Comey or that he had been trying to obtain some understanding or that he wanted Comey to think he would tell others he in fact had such an understanding. In other words, Tr-mp may have been purposely suggesting that Comey had been compromised by all of their discussions or that he saw it that way and might tell others about it. So, why wouldn’t Comey, knowing he would document this very important conversation, want to get Tr-mp on the record about such a crucial matter? It could have been impeachment-worthy information. Wasn’t obstruction of justice ever on Comey’s mind?

Lo and behold, just when I had given up hope, at the end of the hearing the question about “that thing” was finally asked. Unfortunately, it was asked by John McCain, whose previous questions were, well, to put it kindly, unworthy of your drunk uncle, not to mention a U.S. Senator. In any case, McCain did ask about “that thing” and here are the relevant parts of how that went:

MCCAIN: …when the president said to you — you talked about the April 11th phone call, and he said, quote, “Because I’ve been very loyal to you, very loyal. We had that thing, you know,” did that arouse your curiosity as what, quote, “that thing” was?

COMEY: Yes.

MCCAIN: Why didn’t you ask him?

COMEY: It didn’t seem to me to be important for the conversation we were having, to understand it. I took it to be some — an effort to — to communicate to me this — that there is a relationship between us where I’ve been good to you, you should be good to me.

MCCAIN: Yeah, but I — I think it would intensely arouse my curiosity if the president of the United States said “We had that thing, you know” — I’d like to know what the hell that thing is, particularly if I’m the director of the FBI.

COMEY: Yeah, I — I get that, Senator. Honestly, I’ll tell you what — this is speculation, but what I concluded at the time is, in his memory, he was searching back to our encounter at the dinner, and was preparing himself to say, “I offered loyalty to you, you promised loyalty to me,” and all of a sudden his memory showed him that did not happen, and I think he pulled up short.

That’s just a guess, but I — I — a lot of conversations with humans over the years.

MCCAIN: I think I would have had some curiosity if it had been about me, to be honest with you.

Okay. So, we now know why Comey didn’t bother to ask Tr-mp what “that thing” meant. It was because Comey was sure he already knew what it meant. He knew what Tr-mp was getting at:

I took it to be some — an effort to — to communicate to me this — that there is a relationship between us where I’ve been good to you, you should be good to me.

In other words, Comey believed Tr-mp thought the then-FBI Director was somehow compromised by their exchanges, by their “relationship.” Now, given that, given what Comey said in response to McCain’s question, if I were a Republican trying to defend the indefensible Tr-mp, I would use this against Comey. Why? Because it was clear from yesterday’s fascinating and historic testimony, that Comey believes Tr-mp committed, or ineptly tried to commit, obstruction of justice. That is why Comey engineered, through leaking his memo to the press, the establishment of a special prosecutor. And if I were a Republican, trying to undermine (as almost all of them shamefully were) this obvious conclusion from Comey’s testimony, I would have drilled Comey along these lines. If I were a coherent John McCain I would followed up with this:

COHERENT JOHN MCCAIN: If, Mr. Comey, you thought “that thing” was Tr-mp’s way of trying to “communicate” to you that there was a “I’ve been good to you, you should be good to me” relationship between you, and if you believed that Tr-mp was at least flirting with obstruction of justice, then why didn’t you simply ask him directly what “that thing” meant? Why didn’t you get him on the record, so that you could memoralize his answer?

You went to a lot of trouble today, Mr. Comey, to make Tr-mp look guilty of something, especially obstruction of justice, and you had your chance, when he talked about “that thing” in the context of loyalty, to really nail him down on what he meant. Don’t you think, as the leader of the nation’s top law enforcement agency, as someone who was clearly troubled by Tr-mp’s behavior, that you should have used your investigative instincts to draw more from Tr-mp at that moment? The fact that you didn’t bother to do that leads me to believe that you really didn’t take all that seriously the idea that Tr-mp meant to commit obstruction of justice, isn’t that right?

Obviously there was no coherent John McCain present yesterday, and obviously, if there were, I don’t know how Comey would have responded to such reasoning and such a question. But I do think Comey missed a perfect opportunity on April 11 to get Tr-mp to fire the gun of obstruction of justice right in front of him, if he had not just assumed (and I think assumed correctly) that he knew what Tr-mp meant and that Tr-mp’s actions had already amounted to an attempt at obstruction. (Incidentally, the obstruction of justice Image result for heavyweight fighter versus lightweightgun was fired with a firing, when, on May 9, just short of a month after their last talk, Tr-mp dismissed Comey in an awkward and cowardly way.)

All in all, Comey’s appearance and testimony, whether they will admit it publicly or not, rattled Republicans in Congress, at least those who aren’t cultishly tied to Agent Orange. It was a devastating counterpunch from a heavyweight fighter against an intellectually and morally malnourished kid who has no business being in the ring of leadership of our fragile democracy. And the fact that Tr-mp and his lawyer are now furiously trying to trash the integrity of James Comey proves that beyond any doubt.

The Arizona Asshole

As you know by now, there was more disappointing news on Monday regarding the attempt to sensibly regulate gun purchases in America. As Democratic Senator Bill Nelson said, “The NRA won again.” Well, I like what Senator Chris Murphy, who led a Democrat filibuster that got Democrats the ability to even vote on gun restraint, said about the whole sorry episode:

chris murphy gun voteWe’ve got to make this clear, constant case that Republicans have decided to sell weapons to ISIS…That’s what they’ve decided to do. ISIS has decided that the assault weapon is the new airplane, and Republicans, in refusing to close the terror gap, refusing to pass bans on assault weapons, are allowing these weapons to get in the hands of potential lone-wolf attackers. We’ve got to make this connection and make it in very stark terms.

I like that statement because not only is it true, it allows me to heap a whole lot of orange excrement on war-hero-turned-asshole, John McCain.

Not only does McCain support the racist, xenophobic, misogynistic Trump—even after His Orangeness slandered McCain and other POWs last summer and recently slandered President Obama by suggesting he secretly sides with ISIS—but days ago the Arizona Republican actually blamed Barack Obama for the mass killing in Orlando. He said, three freaking times, that the president was “directly responsible for it.”

Directly. Responsible.

Now, should any future assault rifle-toting terrorist decide to kill innocents, we can use McCain logic and say that John McCain—the sluttiest NRA whore in Congress—and his Republican friends in the Senate (plus Democrats Heidi Heitkamp and Jon Tester) are directly responsible for it.

Directly. Responsible.

Guess Who Said About Climate Change, “The Most Relevant Question Now Is Whether Our Own Government Is Equal To The Challenge”?

captain planetLet’s play a guessing game on this historic day of addressing climate change.

Who said the following:

Whether we call it “climate change” or “global warming,” in the end we’re all left with the same set of facts. The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington. Good stewardship, prudence, and simple commonsense demand that we act to meet the challenge, and act quickly.

Oh, come on. Guess. It shouldn’t be that hard. Here’s another one:

When we debate energy bills in Washington, it should be more than a competition among industries for special favors, subsidies, and tax breaks. In the Congress, we need to send the special interests on their way – without their favors and subsidies…

This one should give it away:

We have many advantages in the fight against global warming, but time is not one of them. Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring. We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great. The most relevant question now is whether our own government is equal to the challenge.

Nope. It wasn’t Al Gore. Try again:

Like other environmental challenges — only more so — global warming presents a test of foresight, of political courage, and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next. We need to think straight about the dangers ahead, and to meet the problem with all the resources of human ingenuity at our disposal.

Of course it wasn’t Barack Obama! That would have been too easy. Here’s another one:

Some state local governments have already begun their planning and preparation for extreme events and other impacts of climate change. The federal government can help them in many ways, above all by coordinating their efforts, and I am committed to providing that support.

Give up? How about one more? Try this:

We know that greenhouse gasses are heavily implicated as a cause of climate change. And we know that among all greenhouse gasses, the worst by far is the carbon-dioxide that results from fossil-fuel combustion. Yet for all the good work of entrepreneurs and inventors in finding cleaner and better technologies, the fundamental incentives of the market are still on the side of carbon-based energy. This has to change before we can make the decisive shift away from fossil fuels.

Move away from fossil fuels? Huh? That has to be a wild-eyed lefty. Ding! Ding! Ding! You’re right, if you knew those quotes came from that old left-winger, John McCain. In 2008. When he was running for president. Back before Republicans and their sympathizers went completely nuts:

republicans and climate change

 

Syria, Spookhousing, And A Scary Stroll Through The Neoconservative Mind

It was inevitable, of course. No, I’m not talking about the Obama-Kerry agreement with the Russians on what to do with Syria’s chemical weapons. I’m talking about the subsequent criticism and hysteria coming from the shoot-first-negotiate-later crowd.

No matter how things turned out, no matter what decision the President made, no matter whether we dropped bombs or didn’t drop bombs, shot missiles or didn’t shoot missiles, we could have expected this headline:

John McCain, Lindsey Graham Criticize Syria Deal: ‘An Act Of Provocative Weakness’

You have to admit that is a clever phrase: “Provocative weakness.” But what does it mean? McCain and Graham try to explain:

What concerns us most is that our friends and enemies will take the same lessons from this agreement: They see it as an act of provocative weakness on America’s part, We cannot imagine a worse signal to send to Iran as it continues its push for a nuclear weapon.

Let me see here. If seeking and perhaps finding a non-bomb way out of an international dispute, while keeping the threat of bombs on the table, represents a weakness that will provoke our enemies, then it is not hard to fathom what is the right thing to do for McCain and Graham and others today criticizing the President’s attempt to find a peaceful way out of a crisis: bomb the hell out of your enemies even if your enemies are willing to give you what you want! Because, apparently, getting what you want without dropping bombs is not a sign of strength and success but a sign of weakness and failure.

Even though it is sometimes necessary, I don’t like spending much time rummaging around in the spook-filled heads of people who think like that, who refuse to take yes for an answer while there are still plenty of cruise missiles to launch. Trying to figure out what makes people like McCain and Graham tick, what makes them long for and lead cheers for warfare even when, at least right now, it isn’t necessary to accomplish our stated limited goal, is not likely to bear much fruit.

But one thing is very clear: McCain’s and Graham’s goal in Syria is not limited. It is much more ambitious than stopping a dictator from using chemical weapons that the world long ago agreed were too horrendous to countenance. Obviously, these two and others on the right are eager to jump into every fire in the Middle East, no matter how many times we get burned, because, well, otherwise we look weak. It is much, much better to get burned to a crisp, or burn others to a crisp, than to appear weak to some warmongering conservatives. Never mind that we have spent a decade at war in at least two countries in the region and we don’t appear all that strong. In fact, a good case can be made that protracted warfare has genuinely weakened us in the eyes of the world.

As I say, I don’t want to spend much time spookhousing, trying to figure out what makes people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham think and act the way they do. Suffice it to say that today we should all give thanks that the band doesn’t play “Hail To The Chief” when John McCain walks into a room, and that the weight of his opinions on our international dos and don’ts is felt mainly on television talk shows, on which he appears almost daily and on which he is rarely if ever aggressively challenged.

Don Knotts searches for spooks in Ghost ProtocolIn any case, speaking of strange thinking, speaking of spookhouse-minds to explore, perhaps this is a good time to mention one of the craziest things I have read in a major publication in a long time. It comes via the Wall Street Journal and an article authored by Norman Podhoretz, an old neoconservative who is widely respected—and I mean widely respected: George W. Bush handed him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 for being “at the forefront of American intellectual thought for the last half-century.” Keep that in mind as we go on: “intellectual thought.”

There are at least three more things you need to know about Norman Podhoretz before we get to his article:

♦ He suggested in 1980 we might lose the Cold War with the Soviets and even believed Ronald Reagan wasn’t tough enough on the commies, saying in 1984 that the Gipper was “following a strategy of helping the Soviet Union stabilize its empire, rather than a strategy aimed at encouraging the breakup of that empire from within.” A mere five years later the Soviet Union began to dissolve. Yikes, Norman!

♦ Not only was he a cheerleader for the 2003 Iraq War, he was a cheerleader for attacking Saddam Hussein and Iraq in the 1990s. Yikes again, Norman!

♦ In 2007—in 2007!— he called for and prayed for George W. Bush to bomb the hell out of Iran because time was running out. He answered critics of his scheme, who warned of the dangerous repercussions involved, by citing, who else, John McCain:

Nevertheless, there is a good response to them, and it is the one given by John McCain. The only thing worse than bombing Iran, McCain has declared, is allowing Iran to get the bomb.

Yikes once more, Norm! That’s three yikes! and Podhoretz should be out, but nope, he’s still in the game. His latest article, weirdly but strategically titled, “Obama’s Successful Foreign Failure,” is perhaps this old right-winger’s finest moment in right-wing intellectual nuttery.

Podhoretz believes that not only is the President’s leadership leading to national decline and an “erosion of American power,” it is not happening because Obama is “incompetent,” “bungling,” “feckless,” “amateurish,” and “in over his head.” No, no, no. The President is none of those things, says this respected neocon. You see, Obama means to lead the United States into decline. Obama wants to undermine American strength, but he has to hide his motives:

His foreign policy, far from a dismal failure, is a brilliant success as measured by what he intended all along to accomplish. The accomplishment would not have been possible if the intention had been too obvious. The skill lies in how effectively he has used rhetorical tricks to disguise it.

Referencing Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and Saul Alinsky—the unholy trinity in the liturgy that informs right-wing conspiracists in the First Church of Obama-Haters—Podhoretz says Obama is a “left-wing radical” who believes “that the United States had almost always been a retrograde and destructive force in world affairs” and, thus, the President wants to fundamentally transform the United States by reducing “the country’s power and influence.”

Obama is so crafty in pursuing this diabolical goal, that all this apparent incompetence, fecklessness and amateurism is just a cover. And the President, Podhoretz tells us, doesn’t really care that people see him that way:

For this fulfillment of his dearest political wishes, Mr. Obama is evidently willing to pay the price of a sullied reputation. In that sense, he is by his own lights sacrificing himself for what he imagines is the good of the nation of which he is the president, and also to the benefit of the world, of which he loves proclaiming himself a citizen.

You see? President Obama is willing to sacrifice his own reputation in order to weaken the country so that we will all live happily ever after as world citizens. Got it? Spooky, ain’t it?

Journeying through the ghoulish mind of Norman Podhoretz—again, a man well-respected as an “intellectual” on the right—makes one long for a respite in the little-less-scary and the lot-less-intellectual noggin of John McCain. Why? Because for all his militaristic bravado and chronic interventionism, I think John McCain really does believe President Obama is merely incompetent, amateurish, and in over his head, as opposed to believing that our Commander-in-Chief is skillfully misleading us all as he purposely engineers the decline of America.

No matter what, though, the neoconservative mind, represented either by John McCain or Norman Podhoretz, should send shivers down your spine.

Remarks And Asides

First the bad news:

If Higgs Boson Calculations Are Right, A Catastrophic ‘Bubble’ Could End Universe

Now the good news:

Earth will likely be long gone before any Higgs boson particles set off an apocalyptic assault on the universe. Physicists expect the sun to burn out in 4.5 billion years or so, and expand, likely engulfing Earth in the process.

___________________________

at a couple of town hall meetings in Arizona on Tuesday, John McCain got in a scrap with know-nothings over immigration reform. These are the same ignorant folks McCain pandered to during his last election, so he damn well deserved it.

Here’s how the AP reported part of the pushback:

“There are 11 million people living here illegally,” [McCain] said. “We are not going to get enough buses to deport them.”

Some audience members shouted out their disapproval.

One man yelled that only guns would discourage undocumented immigration. Another man complained that undocumented immigrants should never be able to become citizens or vote. A third man said undocumented immigrants were illiterate invaders who wanted free government benefits.

McCain urged compassion. “We are a Judeo-Christian nation,” he said.

“A Judeo-Christian nation”? The senator apparently doesn’t understand Judeo-Christian compassion, at least the kind we see on display these days. From USA Today:

BEAUMONT, TEXAS — Pastor James McAbee believes the Scriptures can tame temptation and wash away sins.

But he’ll tell you that nothing repels true evil like a well-placed, loaded Glock .40-caliber pistol.

Speaking in strange tongues, the Assembly of God preacher said:

I preach peace. Having a firearm keeps the peace.

A piece keeps the peace? Amen, say all the followers of Jesus, the gun-toting Prince of Peace.

_____________________________

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog published an article titled, “Wal-Mart’s freaking out about the economy. Should the rest of us?” It began by citing comments from “a couple of internal e-mails from Wal-Mart executives panicking about the company’s worst sales start in seven years” :

Well, we just had one of those weeks here at Walmart U.S. Where are all the customers? And where’s their money?

Where’s their money? Heck, that’s an easy one. The Walton family finally has it all!

From the Forbes list of the 400 richest folks in America:

walton family wealth2

That’s a total of $115.5 billion. Those folks need to do a little more shopping at Wal-Mart!

___________________________________

f 2inally, there is the case of Dan Friedman, a reporter for the New York Daily News. He has come forward to admit it was he who, accidentally, started all those weird stories about yet-to-be-confirmed Chuck Hagel speaking to “Friends of Hamas”:

Here’s what happened: When rumors swirled that Hagel received speaking fees from controversial organizations, I attempted to check them out.

On Feb. 6, I called a Republican aide on Capitol Hill with a question: Did Hagel’s Senate critics know of controversial groups that he had addressed?

Hagel was in hot water for alleged hostility to Israel. So, I asked my source, had Hagel given a speech to, say, the “Junior League of Hezbollah, in France”? And: What about “Friends of Hamas”?

The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically. No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.

No one could take seriously the idea”? Huh? We’re talking about crazy people here. HuffPo describes what happened next:

The following day, an article appeared on the conservative website Breitbart.com with the headline, “SECRET HAGEL DONOR?: WHITE HOUSE SPOX DUCKS QUESTION ON ‘FRIENDS OF HAMAS.'” Conservative pundits, including Mike Huckabee, and other websites also addressed the rumor. It even came up during a Fox Business segment with host Lou Dobbs.

The right-wing website RedState also got in on the action and someone commenting on that story explained exactly how wing-nut journalism works, when it comes to Barack Obama:

Any accusation against the President or anyone in anyway connected to his administration must be treated as a fact based truth until otherwise proven false.

Yes!

The Republican War On Class

Contemporary conservatives are a classy bunch:

♦ One of them, a Texas congressman, invited a vulgar, Obama-hating gun freak to the State of the Union address to provide, he explained, “balance.” The vulgar, Obama-hating gun freak then said he could not offer a reaction to the speech because, “I’m supposed to keep my pants on.” Now, that’s balance.

♦ Another conservative, a well-known and well-paid whore for the gun industry, urged people to buy even more guns just in case there is a “fiscal collapse” brought on by President Obama. If that sounds familiar, it is exactly the rationale of Nancy Lanza, a “prepper” who feared an economic collapse and kept several guns in her home to defend herself. Unfortunately, her disturbed son shot her in her sleep and proceeded to Sandy Hook Elementary School to kill six-year-olds and teachers before putting a gun to his own head.

♦ Two insanely-conservative U.S. Senators—I repeat: U.S. Senators—have essentially accused President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, former Republican Chuck Hagel, of being in bed with foreign terrorists. And 41 Republican Senators, including Missouri’s Roy Blunt—who had previously indicated Hagel should not be filibustered—supported a historic filibuster to keep Hagel’s nomination from coming to a vote, a vote he would otherwise clearly win.

Hagel’s offense, as John McCain eventually admitted, was pissing off his fellow Republicans many years ago by criticizing George W. Bush and the surge in Iraq. Republicans can forget all the damage they have done to the economy and all the debt they have racked up, but they can never forget one of their own who told the truth about them.

♦ Three Fox “News” hosts mocked Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old African-American woman who, because of Republican voter suppression tactics, waited hours in line to vote last November, with one of the hosts saying,

What was she the victim of? Rashes on the bottom of her feet?

♦ A Republican congressman from Georgia, seeking an open U.S. Senate seat in 2014, has bragged in a fundraising letter about his insight into Barack Obama:

I was the first member of Congress to call him a socialist who embraces Marxist-Leninist policies like government control of health care and redistribution of wealth.

Turns out the congressman is a liar, but not for saying Obama is a socialist who embraces Marxist-Leninist policies—heck, we all know he is—but because the congressman was not “the first” to say so.

♦ A big-time Tea Party group, FreedomWorks, which recently paid its former chairman Dick Armey $8 million bucks to go away, produced a video with a segment that featured two female interns, one pretending to be a panda and one pretending to be Hillary Clinton. The panda-intern was, reportedly, “performing oral sex on the then-secretary of state.”

Classy stuff. Real family values. Onward Christian soldiers!

False Equivalence And The Immigration Issue

I have heard a lot of talk about President Obama’s interview with The New Republic, but little of it has focused on his answer to a question about the “nastiness” that has  characterized politics in Washington:

I think the issue is that we have these institutional barriers that prevent what the American people want from happening. Some of them are internal to Congress, like the filibuster in the Senate. Some of them have to do with our media and what gets attention. Nobody gets on TV saying, “I agree with my colleague from the other party.” People get on TV for calling each other names and saying the most outlandish things.

Even on issues like the response to Hurricane Sandy, Chris Christie was getting hammered by certain members of his own party and media outlets for cooperating with me to respond to his constituents. That gives you an indication of how difficult I think the political environment has become for a lot of these folks. And I think what will change that is politicians seeing more upside to cooperation than downside, and right now that isn’t the case. Public opinion is going to be what changes that.

In the follow up, TNR’s Franklin Foer rightly stated:

FF: When you talk about Washington, oftentimes you use it as a way to describe this type of dysfunction. But it’s a very broad brush. It can seem as if you’re apportioning blame not just to one party, but to both parties—

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, no, let me be clear. There’s not a—there’s no equivalence there. In fact, that’s one of the biggest problems we’ve got in how folks report about Washington right now, because I think journalists rightly value the appearance of impartiality and objectivity. And so the default position for reporting is to say, “A plague on both their houses.” On almost every issue, it’s, “Well, Democrats and Republicans can’t agree”—as opposed to looking at why is it that they can’t agree. Who exactly is preventing us from agreeing?

How gratifying that was to read. Imagine: The President isn’t as ignorant as some folks thought he was on the issue of both-sides-do-it journalism. He’s a pretty smart guy after all!

Yes, public opinion is the only way to change “the political environment.” And, yes, journalists play the lazy game of telling the public that both sides are equally guilty of the dysfunction we see.

But sometimes journalists don’t take the lazy way out and blame both parties. There is no better example of that than the immigration issue.  USA Today reports:

As President Obama prepares to lay out his immigration plan during a speech in Las Vegas on Tuesday, a group of bipartisan senators has reached agreement on a framework to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.

One doesn’t read very often that “a group of bipartisan senators” have reached agreement on anything because, well, Republicans have taken the bi out of bipartisan. So, why the change of mind on the immigration issue? I’ll let John McCain, making his trillionth appearance on a Sunday TV talk show, tell you:

Well, look, I’ll give you a little straight talk. Look at the last election. Look at the last election. We are losing dramatically the Hispanic vote, which we think should be ours, for a variety of reasons, and we’ve got to understand that.

McCain, of course, was for comprehensive immigration reform before he was against it before he was for it, so he should know why it is that Republicans have come to the table ready to deal. It isn’t because they have suddenly swelled up with compassion.

No, as President Obama said, public opinion changes things and there is no better snapshot of public opinion than an election. And the one issue where one could find good reporting—that is, explaining to people what was really happening in Congress—during the last election was on the issue of immigration. Democrats hammered Republicans on this issue and, for once, journalists didn’t engage in any false equivalence.

It was clear who was obstructing progress on immigration in Washington and it was clear that the GOP presidential candidate took a hard line on the issue because the extremists in his party would have it no other way.

And thus it was clear to the electorate, that browning and beautiful swarm of voters, who the culprits were. That, and only that, is why we finally see Republicans acting on the issue.

The lesson in all this is that if Democrats will keep hammering Republicans on their party’s dangerous hostage-taking budget strategy—and if President Obama will lead the way and keep reminding journalists that both sides are not equally guilty—then we may be able to correct at least the most destabilizing form of dysfunction in our country’s capital.

As the President told The New Republic:

Until Republicans feel that there’s a real price to pay for them just saying no and being obstructionist, you’ll probably see at least a number of them arguing that we should keep on doing it. It worked for them in the 2010 election cycle, and I think there are those who believe that it can work again. I disagree with them, and I think the cost to the country has been enormous.

President Rand Paul

I watched in its entirety Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning.

Predictably, the biggest grandstander in the current Senate, John McCain, did his grandstanding for his Fox “News” Channel fans. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin did the same. No doubt, both will be guests on Fox today and tonight.

But the biggest grandstander of them all was Rand Paul who, unbelievably, uttered this sentence:

Had I been president at the time and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi and did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post.

Now, although she is rather feisty and capable of putting Senator Paul (God, that makes me cringe) in his place, Hillary Clinton did not really do that. I, though, will write the response that she should have given the Senator from Kentucky:

Senator Paul, you said, “if you had been president” you would have fired me. Let me explain something to you: If there ever is a future time when the American people are stupid enough to put you in charge, nobody would have to worry about firing me. I would grab my family, those whom I love, and get the hell out of the country. As dangerous a place as Libya is, I’d rather live there than live any place in which you had real power.

Now, if you please, the thought of someone like you ever becoming president has made me ill yet again and I will have to take a break.

 

Language Matters, But Not Much To Journalists

George Lakoff is an amazing linguistics guru who I have quoted often. He has something to say about what Republicans in Michigan did to unions:

Michigan has just passed a corporate servitude law. It is designed to take away many of the worker rights that unions have conferred throughout their history: the right to a living wage. The right to equal pay for women. The right to deferred payments in the form of pensions. The right to negotiate workplace standards and working conditions. The right to overtime pay.

The law is intended to destroy unions, or at least make then ineffective.

Something else Lakoff said should have your attention:

The deeper truth about unions is that they don’t just create and maintain rights for workers; they work for and create crucial rights in society as a whole. Unions created weekends, the eight-hour workday and health benefits. And through their politics, they have been at the center of support for civil rights and other social justice issues. In short, unions don’t just work for their members. They work for all of us. Including businesses: Workers are profit creators.

But perhaps the most important truth Lakoff, the linguist, passes on to all of us who call ourselves Democrats is this:

Language matters. Republicans understand this better than Democrats. Republicans have called their corporate servitude law a “right to work” law, as if the law conferred a right instead of taking many away. The first principle of political and social communication in cases of conflict is: avoid the other side’s language. The Democrats keep violating this principle, using the Republicans’ name for this law. In this way they are helping Republicans, because using the Republican language activates Republican framing, not just for this law, but for conservative ideology at the deepest level…

Language works so that the conservative name “right to work” evokes the conservative political ideology in the brains of those who hear it without wincing. The more an idea is activated in the brain the stronger it gets. Thus, the use of the conservative name strengthens the conservative ideology in the brains of the public.

The press is not being neutral in using the Republican name for the law. Journalists too, in just using the name, are supporting both the Republican framing of the law and conservative ideology. The press is not being balanced — which is what journalists typically claim to be. Balance would be to use both the names “corporate servitude law” and “right to work law” and to explain the differences in the progressive and conservative understanding of what the law is and does.

Of course, to do so would change a false view of language that journalists too often internalize, namely, that language is neutral. To see that it isn’t, just try speaking or writing of “Michigan’s corporate servitude law” and listen to conservatives scream bloody murder over a truth that does fit their view of democracy. And listen to them keep screaming because it is important to keep repeating the true name of the law if the public is to understand what the law really does.

No, language is not neutral. Language matters. Journalism matters. Politics matters.  Ask labor unions in Michigan. Heck, ask Susan Rice, who has now withdrawn her name from consideration to be our Secretary of State, all because a handful of Republican senators, among them John McCain and Lindsey Graham, working openly with Fox “News” and other more reputable news outlets, sought to destroy her public service career, and now have.

I recommend you read the entire Lakoff piece.

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