Why Republicans Get Away With It

Oddly, I will start this rather long and depressing critique of Sunday’s Meet the Press, hosted by Washington establishment journalist David Gregory, with something from another Sunday program, ABC’s This Week, which was hosted this morning by reporter Jonathan Karl.

At the every end of the program, Karl introduced the viewer-participation segment:

KARL: And finally, your voice this week. Today’s question comes from Christy Miller Johnson on Facebook, who says, “My 16-year-old has a Twitter account with 34,000-plus followers. Where do you see journalism heading in 15 years? What advice to the next generation of journalists would you give?”

Well, thank you for that question, Christy. I would say that regardless of what form Americans will get their news in 15 years or 20 years, my advice to the next generation of journalists is to remember the basics: Know your history, try to get your facts straight, always strive to be fair, and don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve made a mistake.

That’s pretty good advice for anyone, especially journalists. But let’s look a little closer at that “always strive to be fair” admonition, as it applies to reporters reporting the news.

Is it fair to report “both sides” of the flat-earth controversy? Of the moon-landing controversy? Of the age-of-the-earth controversy? Of the Barack Obama birth-certificate controversy?

How about of the fiscal-cliff controversy? Or the upcoming Round Two of the debt-ceiling controversy?

Keep that in mind as we plod through a few excerpts from Meet the Press. First up was an interview with President Obama, who, naturally, was asked about the fiscal cliff. Part of the President’s response included this:

OBAMA: …so far, at least, Congress has not been able to get this stuff done. Not because Democrats in Congress don’t want to go ahead and cooperate, but because I think it’s been very hard for Speaker Boehner and Republican Leader McConnell to accept the fact that taxes on the wealthiest Americans should go up a little bit, as part of an overall deficit reduction package.

Now, by all objective accounts, that is a fair assessment of the situation. The Democrats, much to the chagrin of folks like me, have been willing to give far too much at this stage just to get a “deal.” But David Gregory, because he subscribes to an embarrassingly false form of fairness, followed up with this unbelievably dumb question:

DAVID GREGORY: Well, you talk about dysfunction in Washington. You signed this legislation setting up the fiscal cliff 17 months ago. How accountable are you for the fact that Washington can’t get anything done and that we are at this deadline again?

That question is the equivalent of asking Mr. Obama how “accountable” he is for Donald Trump’s refusal to believe the President was born in Hawaii. It is an infuriating question because it ignores the reality that it was Republicans who held the country hostage in 2011, threatening to bring the whole economic house down over a phony debt ceiling “crisis,” if President Obama didn’t give them entitlement cuts.

At this point, because I’m afraid I’ll start using profane words, I’ll let the conversation continue with the President’s response:

OBAMA: Well, I have to tell you, David, if you look at my track record over the last two years, I cut spending by over a trillion dollars in 2011. I campaigned on the promise of being willing to reduce the deficit in a serious way, in a balanced approach of spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthy while keeping middle class taxes low.

I put forward a very specific proposal to do that. I negotiated with Speaker Boehner in good faith and moved more than halfway in order to achieve a grand bargain. I offered over a trillion dollars in additional spending cuts so that we would have $2 of spending cuts for every $1 of increased revenue. I think anybody objectively who’s looked at this would say that we have put forward not only a sensible deal but one that has the support of the majority of the American people, including close to half of Republicans.

GREGORY: But when they say–

OBAMA: And it’s–

GREGORY: –leadership falls on you, Mr. President, you don’t have a role here in–

OBAMA: Well–

GREGORY: –breaking this impasse? You’ve had a tough go with Congress.

OBAMA: David, at a certain point if folks can’t say yes to good offers, then I also have an obligation to the American people to make sure that the entire burden of deficit reduction doesn’t fall on seniors who are relying on Medicare. I also have an obligation to make sure that families who rely on Medicaid to take care of a disabled child aren’t carrying this burden entirely. I also have an obligation to middle class families to make sure that they’re not paying higher taxes when millionaires and billionaires are not having to pay higher taxes.

There is a basic fairness that is at stake in this whole thing that the American people understand and they listened to an entire year’s debate about it. They made a clear decision about the approach they prefer, which is a balanced, responsible package.

They rejected the notion that the economy grows best from the top down. They believe that the economy grows best from the middle class out. And at a certain point it is very important for Republicans in Congress to be willing to say, “We understand we’re not going to get 100%. We are willing to compromise in a serious way in order to solve problems,” as opposed to be worrying about the next election.

GREGORY: You said that Republicans have a hard time saying yes. Particularly to you.

OBAMA: Yeah.

GREGORY: What is it about you, Mr. President, that you think is so hard to say yes to?

I will interject here and point out how such a question muddles reality—not to mention demeans Mr. Obama—by placing the blame for reckless Republican rigidity on the President and not on recklessly rigid Republicans, which is how the recklessly rigid Republicans are able to get away with their recklessness.

It’s as if, in the birther context, Gregory had asked, “What is it about you, Mr. President, that you think makes some of your critics believe you’re not an American?”  It’s the kind of question that helps us understand what is wrong with high-profile journalists like David Gregory.

Here’s how the President responded:

OBAMA: That’s something you’re probably going to have to ask them, because David, you follow this stuff pretty carefully. The offers that I’ve made to them have been so fair that a lot of Democrats get mad at me. I mean I offered to make some significant changes to our entitlement programs in order to reduce the deficit.

I offered not only a trillion dollars in — over a trillion dollars in spending cuts over the next 10 years, but these changes would result in even more savings in the next 10 years. And would solve our deficit problem for a decade. They say that their biggest priority is making sure that we deal with the deficit in a serious way, but the way they’re behaving is that their only priority is making sure that tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans are protected. That seems to be their only overriding, unifying theme.

And at some point I think what’s going to be important is that they listen to the American people.

Next, Gregory moved on to cover for Republicans in Congress on the issue of entitlements. As we all know, the GOP is hell-bent on cutting Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid benefits, but they want Democrats to do it for them, in some kind of “deal” that will shield the Republican Party from the electoral fallout.  Our Meet the Press host bravely ran offense for Republicans:

GREGORY: If this fight comes back– and I want to ask you specifically about entitlements. Medicare and Social Security. Are you prepared in the first year of your second term to significantly reform those two programs? To go beyond the cuts you’ve suggested to benefits in Medicare, which your own debt commission suggested you’d have to do if you were really going to shore up Medicare at least. Are you prepared to do that in your first year of the second term?

OBAMA: What I’ve said is I am prepared to do everything I can to make sure that Medicare and Social Security are there, not just for this generation but for future generations.

DAVID GREGORY: You’ve got to talk tough to seniors–

OBAMA: But–

GREGORY: –don’t you about this? And say, something’s got to give?

OBAMA: –but I already have, David, as you know, one of the proposals we made was something called chained CPI, which sounds real technical but basically makes an adjustment in terms of how inflation is calculated on Social Security. Highly unpopular among Democrats. Not something supported by AARP. But in pursuit of strengthening Social Security for the long-term I’m willing to make those decisions.

What I’m not willing to do is to have the entire burden of deficit reduction rest on the shoulders of seniors, making students pay higher student loan rates, ruining our capacity to invest in things like basic research that help our economy grow. Those are the things that I’m not willing to do. And so–

GREGORY: Would you commit to that first year of your second term getting significant reform done? Telling Congress, “We’ve got to do it in–”

OBAMA: No, no, no–

GREGORY: –”the first year?”

OBAMA: –but, David, I want to be very clear. You are not only going to cut your way to prosperity. One of the fallacies I think that has been promoted is this notion that deficit reduction is only a matter of cutting programs that are really important to seniors, students and so forth.

That has to be part of the mix, but what I ran on and what the American people elected me to do was to put forward a balanced approach. To make sure that there’s shared sacrifice. That everybody is doing a little bit more. And it is very difficult for me to say to a senior citizen or a student or a mom with a disabled kid, “You are going to have to do with less but we’re not going to ask millionaires and billionaires to do more.” That’s not something that we’re–

GREGORY: Can I ask you about–

OBAMA: That’s not an approach that the American people think is right. And, by the way, historically that’s not how we grow an economy. We grow an economy when folks in the middle, folks who are striving to get in the middle class, when they do well.

Forget for a moment all that disappointing stuff the President said, like the reference to a chain-weighted CPI, a concession that sounds completely unwarranted to my ears, and notice Gregory’s aggressive questioning based on Republican talking points, especially this:

GREGORY: You’ve got to talk tough to seniors, don’t you, about this? And say, something’s got to give?

What? It should be the President who has to “talk tough to seniors“? The President should tell seniors that “something’s got to give“? It seems to be that since a majority of seniors voted for Republican candidates in the last election (Romney won those over 65 by a 56-44 margin), it ought to fall upon the Republicans to talk tough to them and tell them something’s got to give.

But, no. In the mind of a wealthy, corporate-sponsored journalist like David Gregory, it should be the President and the Democrats who have to tell seniors, and other folks benefiting from social insurance and government programs, that they will have to cough up more so that Republicans can keep tax rates low on the wealthy.

Before I end this depressing critique, I want to note that the panelists on Meet the Press charged with talking head duties on this Sunday included no outspoken liberals. None. No one on the show was there to speak on behalf of progressive solutions to these problems. Not a single one.

Thus, I will end with a few excerpts from the roundtable discussion among the panelists, which included conservative columnist David Brooks, NBC News’ Chuck Todd and Tom Brokaw, and presidential historians Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

David Gregory, unbelievably, made yet another ridiculous suggestion to the panel, based on his Obama interview:

GREGORY: My big take away, the president is setting a tone here with Republicans, putting them on notice that yes, taxes are going to go up, and that he’s going to drive a pretty hard bargain on a lot of different issues rather than try to bring them into the fold. He doesn’t feel like compromise is going to work at this point.

The President is “going to drive a pretty hard bargain“? Huh? Did Gregory even listen to Mr. Obama’s answers? Did he hear the words, “chained CP” ? Or, “I offered to make some significant changes to our entitlement programs in order to reduce the deficit” ?

And Gregory said Obama “doesn’t feel like compromise is going to work at this point.” Can you see how the context of Gregory’s suggestion places Obama in the position of the obstinate one? Wow.

To his credit, and only to his partial credit because he went on to say something equally as ridiculous as Gregory’s suggestion, David Brooks included in his response the following:

BROOKS: Now I think most of the blame still has to go to the Republicans. They’ve had a brain freeze since the election. They have no strategy. They don’t know what they want. And they haven’t decided what they want.

We can applaud Brooks for at least speaking a partial truth here. But then he goes on to utter the following nonsense that plays off Gregory’s blame-Obama theme:

BROOKS: But if I had to fault President Obama, I would say that sometimes he’s– governs like a– a visitor from a morally superior civilization. He comes in here and he will not– he– he’ll talk with Boehner, he won’t talk with the other Republicans. He hasn’t built the trust. Boehner actually made a pretty serious concession, 800 billion dollars in tax revenues, probably willing to go up on rates. But the trust wasn’t there to get that done. And if the president wants to get stuff done over the next four years, it’s got to be a lot more than making the intellectual concessions. It’s got– got to get to the place where Republicans say, okay, we’ll take a risk. This guy won’t screw us.

GREGORY: Mm-Hm.

Mm-Hm. Mm-bleeping-Hm. You get it? It’s not enough for this president to make “intellectual concessions.” Oh, no. That’s not enough. He’s got to somehow get this extremist group of Republicans to trust him! He’s got to have them over for lunch or, well, I’ll just let the wealthy journalist Tom Brokaw tell you:

BROKAW: To David’s point, I do really believe that the president doesn’t work hard enough at bringing everybody into the White House and rolling up his sleeves, having them in the living quarters, getting them around the table and saying how do we get this deal done. He didn’t talk downstream about tax reform, for example.

And I think it would have been helpful to him this morning to have said, look, we get this tax deal done, I’m here to help on Medicare and Social Security reforms. We’ve got to address those, instead of just saying I’m going to protect the seniors who are there and the Medicare and Medicaid recipients. Give a little something. Show good faith about what needs to be done on deficit reduction and the entitlement programs.

Can you believe this stuff? Tom Brokaw actually said that President Obama should tell Republicans he is “here to help” them cut Social Security and Medicare. “Give a little something,” the renowned establishment journalist insisted. “Show good faith about what needs to be done on deficit reduction and entitlement programs.” Are you kidding me? This is so outrageous it’s hard to write about it.

Again, the theme is that Obama is at fault. If he would only coddle this group of Republicans, give them the warm-and-fuzzy treatment, somehow a little Socratic deficit-reduction baby would be born, with most of the labor pains assigned to those who have born so much Bush-recession pain already.

This is what passes for “fairness” in much of the mainstream press. As I said, not an outspoken liberal in the bunch on Meet the Press this day. No one took the other side. The entire program, except for President Obama’s answers to Gregory’s questions, was designed around Republican themes and presented in Republican language.

It was an infuriating, and depressing, hour. Because on the horizon, as Senator Lindsey Graham said this morning on Fox, looms another fight over the debt ceiling, a fight Graham said will be where Republicans will have real leverage—meaning they will threaten the country again with default and economic ruin—and I fear that unless President Obama and the Democrats get extremely aggressive very soon, we will see the David Gregorys frame the issue as a failure of the President to stop them from wrecking the country.

Meet The De-Press

Today’s Meet The Press, which featured President Obama as a guest, demonstrated exactly what is wrong with mainstream journalism today. As soon as NBC releases the transcript of this morning’s revealing episode, I will show you why President Obama will have to do all the work himself, if the American people are ever to know what is going on in Washington.

Pitiful. Plain pitiful.

And depressing, too.

“Four Cents On The Dollar”

Missouri’s Claire McCaskill said on Meet the Press on Sunday:

I feel almost sorry for John Boehner. There is incredible pressure on him from a base of his party that is unreasonable about this. And he’s got to decide, is his speakership more important or is the country more important? And in some ways, he has got to deal with this base of the Republican Party, who Grover Norquist represents. And, you know, everybody’s elevated Grover—I mean, I met him for the first time this morning—nice to meet him—but, you know, who is he? Why is he this guy that is—has—has captured so much attention in this?

Indeed, wherefore Grover Norquist? Who is he?

In a reasonable world, in a world not dominated by corporate media’s need to keep a controversy blazing, Grover Norquist would be enjoying retirement today, perhaps rubbing bronzing lotion on Mitt Romney’s money, somewhere in a tropical paradise, instead of appearing on NBC’s Meet The Press.

Republicans, you see, particularly Republicans spouting Tea Party nonsense, got the left foot of fellowship from the American people on November 6, and it was partly—though not completely—a 2010 gerrymandering bonanza that kept several right-wing House zealots in their seats, Democrats having received a majority of all House election votes.

And the one issue that clearly separated Democrats from Republicans was the issue of tax increases on the wealthiest two percent of Americans. The voters, as we all know but are starting to forget, chose the Democratic view.

As it is, though, even if Grover Norquist wanted to go to a beach far, far away, he can’t. Journalists keep pretending that he is relevant to the conversation about the fiscal cliff, which is quickly turning into a conversation about how much austerity will be foisted on the American economy in the shortest time possible without hurting rich people.

And nobody speaks for the rich like Grover Norquist:

Tea Party II is going to dwarf Tea Party I,  if Obama pushes us off the cliff. Let’s not pretend who’s pushing us over the cliff.

No, let’s not pretend. Let’s not pretend that, if there is a cliff for us to go over in the short-term, it will be because Norquist and his friends in Congress are willing to push the country that way in service to their wealthy constituents. In fact, Claire McCaskill said so on Sunday:

There has to be a realization that if we do nothing, the Republicans are going to have to live with the fact that they were willing to stop a deal all over a tax rate for the top two percent of this country.

Yes, Republicans—and Republicans only—will have to live with that realization. Nothing—absolutely nothing—could be clearer, despite Norquist’s bluster, which is really a last-ditch effort to save his relevance as a Washington insider.

Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee and one of the smartest Democrats around these days, was also on with Grover Norquist:

Well, what’s happened now is that the president has put forward a plan. It’s transparent. It’s on the internet…Let’s be really clear on what the President has said. He wants to extend tax relief for hundred percent of American families and small businesses on their first 250 thousand dollars of income.

And what Republicans are saying is, nobody gets that tax relief unless folks over 250 thousand get the extra four cents on the dollar that they were getting compared to the Clinton tax rates. And I just don’t believe that the American people are going to accept the Republican position when we need to extend middle class tax cuts and get serious about our long-term deficit reduction.

Four cents on the dollar. That’s what most of this argument is about, my friends. Four cents on the dollar for folks who are doing quite well, thank you.

And thanks to mainstream journalism, thanks to the producers of shows like Meet the Press, we still have a whiny titmouse of a man named Grover Norquist on television doing his best to make sure, even if it fiscally imperils the country, those folks don’t have to pay that extra four cents on the dollar for every dollar they make over $250,000.

If Democrats can’t win this argument, either with Republicans or ultimately with the American people, then the country is going to hell anyway, fiscal cliff or not.

What Wimpy Journalism Looks Like

On Morning Joe this morning, Mark Halperin was a guest blabber.

Halperin, who serves as a senior political analyst for Time magazine and as an MSNBC contributor, said this about President Obama and his recent moves on jobs and the deficit:

He’s still going to have to find a way to get John Boehner to do business with him to get anything done.

After I coughed up my breakfast burrito over that one, I heard Halperin offer up the idea that Republican talk about wanting to work with the President to get things done is “somewhat disingenuous.”

Somewhat disingenuous?  Somewhat?  That’s like saying Charles Manson is somewhat psychopathic or that Newt Gingrich is somewhat chubby.

Nothing could be more obvious—except in the commentary of TV journalists like Mark Halperin, who hyperextend their journalistic spines trying to appear fair and balanced—than the fact that Republicans don’t want to work with President Obama. They have even had the rocks to say so. Out loud.  Where even Mark Halperin could hear them. 

Yet, Republicans are only “somewhat disingenuous.” Such is the state of much TV journalism these days.

And that is just one of ten thousand examples of this kind of journalistic malpractice.  On Sunday, the venerable Meet the Press, now fronted by the unvenerable David Gregory, featured an appearance by Mitch McConnell, who famously said last October:

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

McConnell is no less committed to that plan this year, and the David Gregorys of the media world help him in his efforts with interviews like the one on Sunday, which began with this question to McConnell:

GREGORY: Let me start with you and ask you whether this presidential plan on a millionaire’s tax rate is something that you could support?

Now, before we get to McConnell’s response, let’s first think about the question.  David Gregory knows very well that McConnell will never in a quadrillion years support Obama’s plan.  He knows that because McConnell has said so, repeatedly.  So, why even ask him this question?  Oh, you might say, this crafty journalist is just laying the ground work for some real journalism to come later.  Let’s see:

McConnell: Well, you know we had that vote, David, a couple of years ago, when the Democrats basically owned the Congress.  They had overwhelming control of the Senate and the House, and it was defeated then. So, I would simply go back to what the president said last December in signing a two-year extension of the current tax rates: it’s a bad thing to do in the middle of an economic downturn. And of course the economy, some would argue, is even worse now than it was when the president signed the extension of the current tax rates back in December. I think what he said then still applies now.

Mitch McConnell is a skillful politician. This wasn’t his first Meet the Press rodeo. He’s ridden a lot of bulls through the years and Gregory is one he could ride all day, while sipping a Mint Julep and thumbing through a copy of The Prince.  Notice how the Minority Leader pivoted from Gregory’s question to asserting that Obama is contradicting himself?  Wow, that’s nice form. 

And it’s really easy for McConnell because he doesn’t have to worry much about having to defend what he did. Gregory’s follow-up question ignored what McConnell actually asserted and went on to ask him an obviously prepared second question:

GREGORY: What’s unfair, though, about making richer Americans pay the same tax rate that middle-income Americans do?

Now, even though McConnell didn’t mention anything about fairness, Gregory ask him about it. Any other time that would be a good question—but not as a follow-up to what McConnell asserted previously.  This would have been a great time for Gregory to nail McConnell on his party’s recalcitrance and its stonewalling.  Remember what he asserted:

1. That Democrats had previously voted on Obama’s tax idea and rejected it.  Gregory could have asked, “Okay, Senator, when did Democrats vote down a tax on the rich?  What are you talking about? Democrats were too chicken to vote on a millionaires’ tax.”

2. That Democrats “basically owned Congress” and that they had “overwhelming control of the Senate and the House.”  Gregory could have said, “Okay, Senator McConnell, you know that Democrats didn’t have the 60 votes needed to break your party’s constant filibusters in the Senate.  And even with the two independents—one a reliable Democratic vote and one not—Democrats only had those potential filibuster-breaking 60 votes for a very short time in July and September of 2009. How can you say Democrats had “overwhelming control” of the Senate when you know they didn’t?

3. President Obama essentially sided with Republicans about raising taxes being “bad” for the economy.  Gregory could have mentioned that Obama only caved in on the tax issue last December because Republicans had a gun to the head of the unemployed and the economy.  Or, perhaps more journalistically, he could have asked a question this way:  “Now, Senator, do you really think Mr. Obama agrees with your economic policy, and, if so, why do so many in your party call him a socialist?”

Pursuing any or all of those lines of questioning would have been the thing to do, it seems to me.  But then I’m not a big-time, wealthy TV news man, who has been seen defending the worst of conservatives.

As for Gregory’s real follow-up question about the tax fairness issue, McConnell proceeded to insult Warren Buffet, lie about the potential effect on small businesses, and assert that there was “bipartisan opposition” to Obama’s tax policy already.

And what did Gregory do?  Like he always does, he moved on.

Where is Tim Russert when you need him?

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

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

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

So, that’s really the fight here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Conservative Commentary As Easy As 1-2-3

Good things come in threes, the superstitious often aver.  On two of the Sunday morning shows, I heard two different conservative pundits—George F. Will and David Brooks—say sensible things, in threes.  And after I throw in a little William F. Buckley, this will mark the first time in the history of this blog that I have favorably quoted three conservatives.

From ABC’s This Week, I want to bring attention to this brief exchange between two regular panelists, Martha Raddatz and Will, during the program’s segment discussing President Obama’s speech last Wednesday on the planned withdrawal of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year:

MARTHA RADDATZ: I think the president has never wanted a full counterinsurgency. The president has never even mentioned counterinsurgency in December 2009 and he certainly didn’t mention it the other night.

I always had the impression that David Petraeus and Stan McChrystal before him were fighting a war based on counterinsurgency, but the president was never committed to that…

GEORGE WILL: Obviously Pakistan is key. If Afghanistan were next to Denmark, we wouldn’t be there, we wouldn’t be worrying about it the way we do, because it is next to Pakistan, a nuclear power.

I think Martha has got it exactly right, which is the commander in chief and his commander in the field are fighting different projects.

David Petraeus is the author, literal, of the book on counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency is nation building. The United States army — army has been engaged in 16,000 economic projects over there.

There are three problems with nation building. It’s expensive and we’re short of money. It takes time and we’re short of patience. And, three, we don’t know how to it. It’s like orchid building, nations are not built like tinker toys.

I think Raddatz and Will are pretty close to the mark, although calling them “different projects” is going too far.  But Petraeus and Obama are not exactly on the same page with the counterinsurgency stuff, as I suggested last week

And Will’s triplet formulation and criticism of the counterinsurgency strategy is right on:

1. It’s expensive and we’re short of money.

2. It takes time and we’re short of patience.

3. We don’t know how to do it.

I will insert here a quote from another conservative voice, William F. Buckley, related to the nation-building idea:

One should not tire of repeating the fatalistic but wise maxim of Senator Fulbright, that the United States government has no proper quarrel with any nation no matter how obnoxious its domestic policies, so long as it does not seek to export them. As much was said by President John Quincy Adams when he stressed that Americans were friends of liberty everywhere, but custodians only of their own.

I also want to point out another triplet advanced on Sunday by yet another conservative, David Brooks.  On NBC’s Meet the Press, this brief exchange took place:

DAVID GREGORY:  …I spoke to a CEO this week who said, “Yeah, you go around the world, in Asia and Europe, there’s this sense that Pax Americana is over.” But even in a more positive way, David, that American influence is waning because our politics is not up to the task of some of the challenges we face.

DAVID BROOKS:  Yeah.  We’ve got a government problem.  We don’t have a country problem.  We still have an entrepreneurial country.  We’ll still have the only country in the world, only big country, where people can come in from all over the world and magnify their talents.  But we have a government problem. 

We have to do three things.  We have to be fiscally sustainable, we have to do it in a way that increases growth, and we have to do it in a way that reduces inequality.  Those are three things that are in tension with each other.  So if any of us who watch Washington think that our political system is capable of doing two–three things in tension with each other all at once?  It means borrowing from column A, column B, I haven’t seen that level of borrowing.

Again, the triplet that Brooks advanced is sound:

1. We have to be fiscally sustainable.

2. We have to be fiscally sustainable in a way that increases growth.

3. We have to be fiscally sustainable in a way that reduces inequality.

While I tend to share Brooks’ pessimism about the ability of contemporary politics to achieve those three things, my admittedly liberal analysis leads me to believe that Democrats and Republicans all agree on the first two points, but the truth is that Republicans don’t give a damn about the third point: whether any fiscal solution involves the reduction of inequalities.

And that’s why they are willing to play chicken with the economy.

None Dare Call It Radical

lt is clear that the Ryan budget plan has now become a litmus test for conservatives. 

When I heard Newt Gingrich criticize the plan on Meet the Press on Sunday, I assumed he would get some flak from conservatives, but I didn’t think conservatives would attack him so vehemently, so mercilessly.  It just shows how much Republicans have invested in their Murder Medicare scheme, and how they can’t afford to tolerate criticism of it from anyone on their side.

Gingrich said about the Ryan-Republican plan:

I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.

Charles Krauthammer, who less than a month ago wrote that Gingrich was a “smart guy…a Vesuvius of ideas,” pronounced dead Gingrich’s presidential aspirations by calling his views  “contradictory and incoherent.”  Joe Scarborough this morning echoed that sentiment, accusing Newt of not being a real conservative.  Other prominent conservatives have said much the same.

As for the architect of the plot to kill Medicare, the Associated Press reported:

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said Monday that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich does not fully understand a GOP proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher system, dismissing criticism from the former House speaker that the plan would be a radical change.

The “smart guy,” the “Vesuvius of ideas,” just doesn’t understand the plan.  He doesn’t get it.  If only he could see that the plan, in Ryan’s words, “is one of the most gradual things one could do.”  As if the slow death of Medicare is somehow less offensive than a speedier one.

But the truth is that Gingrich does understand the plan. He correctly labeled it as “right-wing social engineering” because that is exactly what it is, although one could say “re-engineering.” In fact, Gingrich said—confirming Krauthammer’s “contradictory and incoherent” comment—that he would have voted for the plan because it represented “the first step.”

That first step, of course, is destroying Medicare as we know it.

What conservatives and Republicans are afraid of, obviously, is that Democrats will use Gingrich’s language against every single Republican running next year, not just those House Republicans who voted for it.  (Senate Republicans haven’t yet been forced to vote on the plan, although Sen. Harry Reid keeps promising he will force them to do so.)

As it stands, not one single serious Republican presidential candidate or potential candidate has actually endorsed the plan, although Mitch Daniels labeled itserious,”  and Tim Pawlenty said Ryan offered “real leadership,” and Mitt Romney said Ryan is “setting the right tone.”

Despite the fact that the national candidates are reluctant to actually go with Paul Ryan and his fellow Republicans as they slip into Medicare’s bedroom and murder it in its sleep, they appear to be willing to wait in the getaway car outside, as the culprits do the dirty work.

And that’s the purpose of the conservative litmus test. If one goes to jail for this crime, all go.  At the very least, GOP candidates will not be allowed to openly criticize the budget plan.  If they do, they will receive the Gingrich treatment, essentially a pair of cement loafers and a trip to the North Arabian Sea to visit Osama bin Laden.

Thus, Democrats need to expose not only the actual killers, but the accomplices, those Republicans who remain silent as the murderous plot unfolds.

Eric Cantor Is Not A Homosexual Traitor. I Think.

If you watched Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Meet The Press appearance on Sunday, you learned the following:

Unlike Obama, Republicans don’t want to “invest” in America:

CANTOR: What we’ve said is our Congress is going to be a cut and grow Congress; that we believe we’ve got to cut spending, we’ve got to cut the regulations that have stopped job growth. When the president talks about competitiveness, sure, we want America to be competitive.  But then when he talks about investing, I think even someone from the White House this week had said that this is going to be a cut and invest White House.  We want to cut and grow.  Because when we, we hear invest, when–from anyone in Washington, to me that means more spending. 

Get it?  Cut and grow.  Cut and grow. Cut and grow.  Sort of like pruning roses. That’s it!  America is just one big rose garden!  If we just cut, cut, cut, in no time millions of job-flowers will bloom!  Just make sure you don’t get cancer. In the interview, Mr. Cantor suggested that even cancer research is “on the table.” 

We learned Republicans will violate their Pledge To America and not cut $100 billion from the budget, and, guess what? It’s the Democrat’s fault! Here is part of an exchange between host David Gregory and Cantor: 

MR. GREGORY:  It seems like it’s a straightforward question, though.  Are you going to live up to the $100 billion pledge?  I assume you’ve put a lot of thought into that…$100 billion figure.  Can you make it or not?

REP. CANTOR:  Absolutely.  On an annualized basis, we will cut spending $100 billion.

MR. GREGORY:  You do it this year as you pledged?

REP. CANTOR:  On an annualized basis…

MR. GREGORY:  Which means what exactly?

REP. CANTOR:  Well, again, David, look where we are.  We are where we are because the Democratic majority, last Congress, didn’t pass a budget, right? They didn’t do it.  So we’re in a continuing resolution environment.  So now we’ve got an interim step to take to make sure that we reset the dial and bring spending back down to ’08 levels.  We will do that.

Annualized“?  “Interim step“?  I looked and didn’t find those words in the Pledge. Whoops. 

We also learned that Republicans will definitely deploy their hold-America-hostage strategy again this spring, as we approach the debt ceiling:

MR. GREGORY:  You talk about the debt, it’s passing $14 trillion.  And last week you gave an interview to The Washington Post about this important vote that’ll come up in the spring about raising the debt ceiling, which has been done for a long time in the past.  And this is what you said in The Washington Post:  “`It’s a leverage moment for Republicans,’ Cantor said in an interview…  `The president needs us.  There are things we were elected to do.  Let’s accomplish those if that the president needs us to clean up the old mess.’”

I want you to be specific here.  What’s the leverage moment?  What will you exact as a promise in order for your members to vote to increase the debt ceiling?

REP. CANTOR:  Well, let, let me be clear, David.  Republicans are not going to vote for this increase in the debt limit unless there are serious spending cuts and reforms.

MR. GREGORY:  Like what?

REP. CANTOR:  I mean–and, and that is just the way it is, OK?

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

Get that?  We have to go through another “or else” moment.  Geez.

Via Mr. Cantor we also found out that the anemic BoehnerCare is “just a starting point,” and that the reason Republicans haven’t done better is the fault of Democrats!  Yep:

MR. GREGORY:  All right, let, let’s, let’s move on to health care because House Republicans did repeal the president’s healthcare reform plan, but the real question is what Republicans are prepared to replace it with and whether you have a serious plan.  Major Garrett in the National Journal reports this week the following about the speaker’s plan, Speaker Boehner:  “The Boehner plan, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would add just three million Americans to the insurance rolls, leaving about 50 million still without coverage through 2019.  CBO said that the proposal would reduce costs in the group-insurance market, which constitutes nearly 80 percent of private-sector premiums, by less than 3 percent.  `If it’s all they do, it is not a serious effort,’ Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director and chief policy adviser for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said of the Boehner alternative.  `You can’t just do that.’”

The truth is, Republicans do not have a serious alternative to covering more Americans, do they?

REP. CANTOR:  I disagree with that, obviously, David.  First of all, you know, we believe you can do better in health care.  I mean, we want to try and address the situation so more folks can have coverage, can, can have the kind of care that they want.

MR. GREGORY:  But that’s not what the Boehner plan does.

REP. CANTOR:  Well, the…

MR. GREGORY:  It’s not more folks being covered.

REP. CANTOR:  Well, the–if you recall last session, we Republicans were given one shot; we didn’t have any open debate for both sides at all on the healthcare bill the way it was jammed through.  The Boehner plan is just a starting point… 

Finally, we learned that Eric Cantor—the second-in-command in Republican leadership—”thinks” Obama is a citizen.  He doesn’t “know” he is; he “thinks” he is. It’s like when Hillary Clinton told 60 Minutes that, “as far as I know,” Obama is not a Muslim.

And as far as I know, I don’t think Eric Cantor is a traitorous Zionist homosexual. There. That settles it.

Here’s the weird exchange between Gregory and Cantor, which—eventually— ended in Cantor’s quasi-acknowledgement that Obama is legitimately our president: 

MR. GREGORY:  There’s been a lot of talk about discourse, about how you all can get along a little bit better and do it a little bit more civilly.  And I wonder, this is the leadership moment here, OK?  There are elements of this country who question the president’s citizenship, who think that it–his birth certificate is inauthentic.  Will you call that what it is, which is crazy talk?

REP. CANTOR:  David, you know, I mean, a lot of that has been an, an issue sort of generated by not only the media, but others in the country.  Most Americans really are beyond that, and they want us to focus…

MR. GREGORY:  Right.  Is somebody brings that up just engaging in crazy talk?

REP. CANTOR:  Well, David, I, I don’t think it’s, it’s nice to call anyone crazy, OK?

MR. GREGORY:  All right.  Is it a legitimate or an illegitimate issue?

REP. CANTOR:  And–so I don’t think it’s an issue that we need to address at all.  I think we need to focus on…

MR. GREGORY:  All right.  His citizenship should never be questioned, in your judgment.  Is that what you’re saying?

REP. CANTOR:  It is, it is not an issue that even needs to be on the policy-making table right now whatsoever.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.  Because it’s illegitimate?  I mean, why won’t you just call it what it is?

REP. CANTOR:  I–because, again…

MR. GREGORY:  I mean, I feel like there’s a lot of Republican leaders who don’t want to go as far as to criticize those folks.

REP. CANTOR:  No.  I think the president’s a citizen of the United States.

MR. GREGORY:  Period.

REP. CANTOR:  So what–yes.  Why, why is it that you want me to go and engage in name-calling?

MR. GREGORY:  No, I’m just…

REP. CANTOR:  I think he’s a citizen of the United States.

MR. GREGORY:  Because, because I think a lot of people, Leader, would say that a leader’s job is to shut some of this down.  You know as well as I do, there are some elements on the right who believe two things about this president:  He actively is trying to undermine the American way and wants to deny individuals their freedom.  Do you reject those beliefs as a leader in our Congress?

REP. CANTOR:  Let me tell you, David, I believe this president wants what’s best for this country.  It’s just how he feels we should get there, that there are honest policy differences.

MR. GREGORY:  Fair enough.

After all that, we have a grudging admission by a big-time Republican—who leads a party in which nearly one-third of its members believe Mr. Obama is a Muslim—that he thinks—thinks!—Mr. Obama is a citizen and that he “wants what’s best for this country.” 

Oh, well, these Tea Party days, that counts as progress.

 

Alan Greenspan Throws Republicans Under The Bus on Bush Tax Cuts

More than a week ago, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner reiterated the administration’s plan to let the infamous Bush tax cuts expire—that expiration, of course, was part of the legislation that Republicans crafted and passed and signed into law years ago—with exceptions for those individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000.  Those folks will continue paying at the same rate they do now.

Only the top two or three percent of income earners will see their tax rates go back to the Clinton era, when deficit spending was on the wane and jobs were plentiful.  The expiration of the tax cuts for folks in that category will net the Treasury about $680 billion over the next ten years.  Were the entire package of Bush tax cuts allowed to die its natural legislative death, the Treasury would net about $3.7 trillion or so over the next decade. 

In other words, it costs a lot to cut people’s taxes, especially the top two or three percent of the wealthiest Americans. Republicans, because their conservative constituency includes many of those wealthiest Americans, naturally are characterizing the expiration of the tax cuts as a tax increase.   

Their salient, supply-side argument is that to “raise taxes” now would jeopardize the economic recovery (which recovery they don’t acknowledge in any other context) because tax cuts stimulate economic growth and essentially pay for themselves. In other words, if you believe magic is real (voodoo economics, anyone?), then you can also believe in the supply-side theory that cutting taxes for the wealthy increases government revenue.

If you had the stomach for it, you could have heard Sarah Palin make that argument this morning on her network, Fox “News.”  But if you wanted a more, shall we say, learned opinion, you could have listened to Alan Greenspan, former five-term Fed chairman and Ayn Rand enthusiast, who said this today on Meet The Press:

MR. GREGORY:  All right.  Well, Dr. Greenspan, it’s not often that you hear Democrats and liberals quoting you.  But, in this case, they did when it come to–came to tax cuts because of an interview you gave recently with Judy Woodruff on Bloomberg television.  Here was the question:  “Tax cuts [that] are due to expire at the end of this year.  Should they be extended?  What should Congress do?” You said, “I should say they should follow the law and then let them lapse.” Question:  “So to those interests who say but wait a minute, if you let these taxes go my taxes go up, it’s going to depress growth?” You said, “Yes, it probably will, but I think we have no choice in doing that, because we have to recognize there are no solutions which are optimum.  These are choices between bad and worse.” You’re saying let them all go, let them all lapse?

MR. GREENSPAN:  Look, I’m very much in favor of tax cuts, but not with borrowed money.  And the problem that we’ve gotten into in recent years is spending programs with borrowed money, tax cuts with borrowed money, and at the end of the day, that proves disastrous.  And my view is I don’t think we can play subtle policy here on it.

MR. GREGORY:  You don’t agree with Republican leaders who say tax cuts pay for themselves?

MR. GREENSPAN:  They do not.

For those of you in a comedic mood, or those who just can’t get enough of the fractional governor’s palm-inscribed wisdom, here is a snippet from this morning:

 

“He’s A Good Face For Our Party”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, who has developed amnesia lately over the Republican use of the reconciliation process, was on Meet The Press on Sunday and was attempting to say something nice about Republican National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele:

He made mistakes like everybody does, but he’s a good face for our party. I think he’s articulate, he’s smart, he has a lot on the ball.

Why do white folks continue to think they have to comment on the way black folks talk (“he’s articulate, can you believe it?”) or their intelligence (“by God, he’s smart, too!)?  And doesn’t the fact that Michael Steele has reached such heights as titular head of the GOP imply that “he has a lot on the ball”?

 Here is the clip of Hatch’s comments:

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 586 other followers

%d bloggers like this: