Ted Cruz: Selective Socialist

In west Dallas, Texas, there is a burial ground called La Réunion Cemetery. Most of the people interred there were European colonists who started a socialist community and tried gallantly to maintain it. At the time, 1855, Dallas was “a shabby little frontier village” next door to the community of hope-filled socialists. Today it is the ninth largest city in the country.

The La Réunion colony failed. And it failed for many reasons, beginning with the fact that, as Public Radio International put it, the colonists didn’t have “a very clear idea of what they were getting themselves into”:

The Texas heat. The lack of a navigable river. Slavery, and the violent politics around it. Land speculators and hucksters. And lots and lots of snakes.

To make matters worse, most of the European colonists had no farming skills. They were artisans and thinkers who mostly expected paradise, not frontier misery. They were no match for the harsh environment they’d unwittingly entered.

Those starry-eyed Europeans did not realize their utopian socialist dreams, but the hardy souls who eventually moved to that shabby little village next door did make a difference:

…historians credit Dallas’s early growth to the sudden arrival of these people, among them architects, musicians, builders, bankers and editors. When the Civil War broke out, many of those immigrants tried hard not take a side — some even hid out in Mexico to avoid the Confederate draft. After the War, the Reconstruction government needed non-Confederates to run the town: there they were, these battered idealists.

Some believe Dallas would never have become the city it is without those folks. Those socialists.

Which brings me to what’s going on in Texas today. No, I don’t mean the godawful storm that is still doing terrible things in and around Houston. And I don’t mean Agent Orange flying in to vainly attempt a rescue of his administration from abject failure. What I mean is the idea that all of us, as Americans, are expected to assent to helping devastated Texans with our tax money. But should we?

As has been widely reported, all but one of the Texas Republicans in the House and both U.S. Senators essentially said “Eff off!” to victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, as those right-wing anti-socialists voted against the aid package to help folks in the northeast. Suddenly, though, Hurricane Harvey has washed ashore and brought with it a new fondness for socialism. Suddenly, it is time to redistribute the wealth. Suddenly, La Réunion lives again!

Ted Cruz, whose father probably helped kill JFK and who has an ugly wife—unretracted claims of Tr-mp, not mine—defended his drop-dead-Sandy-victims vote this way:

The accurate thing to say is that I and a number of others enthusiastically and emphatically supported hurricane relief for Sandy. Hurricane relief and disaster relief has been a vital federal role for a long, long time and it should continue. The problem with that particular bill is it became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork.

Image result for hurricane sandy and ted cruzNow, I’m not that interested in whether Cruz is lying about having been “enthusiastically and emphatically” supportive of pork-less hurricane relief five years ago. My default position on people like Cruz is that they are lying every time they speak, so no biggie here. What I am focused on is the casual way he says, “Hurricane relief and disaster relief has been a vital federal role for a long, long time and it should continue.” That sentence rolled off his tongue so smoothly that it sounded like he meant it. So, let’s pretend he did and ask ourselves, What does it mean?

It means that Ted Cruz has endorsed socialism. There is no other way to look at it. Ted Cruz is a socialist. He is as red as any La Réunion colonist ever was. He essentially said the United States is just one big La Réunion-like settlement. But, of course, we all know Ted Cruz doesn’t see it that way. Houston is a special case. It is a limited case. We shouldn’t get carried away with this socialist talk, he would insist.

But he’s wrong. What he advocates is a form of socialism. It is the government taking something from one citizen and giving it to another. And that idea is, theoretically, what conservatives have always hated. It is, theorectically, what they want to erase from American life. It is, theorectically, why they constantly attack New Deal thinking and programs.

But the still-developing disaster in Houston and elsewhere isn’t theoretical. The cloak-room purity of free markets and rugged individualism has surrendered to the stark reality that we all are necessarily in this together. Or at least we should be. My problem is not with sending whatever is necessary to help folks in Texas and Louisiana recover from this tragedy. Of course we should assist them, even if their Republican politicians are horrible legislators.

My problem is that some people can only see the need for socialist-like responses during large-scale disasters like this one. These types of events clearly demonstrate the foolishness of drown-government-in-the-bathtub ideology. Everyone can see that the future of Houston and other communities will depend on a large distribution—redistribution—of federal dollars, just like what happened here in Joplin. Ted Cruz can see that. All Republicans in Texas can see that. What they can’t see is that the same application of socialist thinking—the democratic variety—ought to be applied even when parts of the country haven’t been shellacked by a massive storm.

Every day someone experiences their own personal Hurricane Harvey. It may be a lost job or a devastating medical diagnosis. It may be the reality of being trapped in poverty, without a means of escape. It may be a drug addiction. It could be any number of things. And our reaction to these individual storms should be the same as if they occurred on a massive scale in a matter of a few days. There’s no reason to think otherwise. If democratic socialism is good during collective disasters, it is good during individual disasters.

And the theoreticians on the right know this. Back in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hammered New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the Bush administration proposed a post-storm aid program that bothered the puritans of parsimony, the ideologues of individualism. Writing for Reason magazine (“Bush’s Disaster Socialism“), Shikha Dalmia explained her opposition:

Conservatives care not just about the size of government but about its scope as well. Direct federal aid—aid disaster victims don’t even have to justify to a bureaucracy—would inevitably expand Americans’ sense of individual entitlement, establishing a dangerous precedent. On Bush’s principles, why not have the federal government pay for health insurance, job training, and child care for victims of any calamity? After all, why are people who knowingly live in a hurricane-prone area more worthy of federal largesse than those who meet with random, unpredictable accidents? In short, how can Bush resist any suggestion to launch an all-encompassing national accident insurance program?

 You can see that, like George W. Bush’s proposals in 2005, Ted Cruz’s embrace of “disaster socialism” throws a wrench into the intellectual machinery of anti-welfare, anti-statist, ideologues. They see what it really means to embrace federal aid to hurricane victims. They see the socialism at the heart of it.

Shikha Dalmia asked the right question: “why not have the federal government pay for health insurance, job training, and child care for victims of any calamity?” Why not? Because Ted Cruz and others like him, hypocrites hungry for collective dollars today, will lose their appetite for those dollars when it comes time to hand them out to victims of “random, unpredictable” misfortunes that happen in everyday life.

That’s why not.

Not A Morality Play, An Amorality Play

Let’s be clear about something.

Republicans now have as their presumptive nominee for the presidency of the United States a man who was called a “pathological liar,” a “narcissist” and “amoral” by the guy who came in second in last night’s Indiana primary. And that guy, Ted Cruz, had every reason to attack Drumpf in that way on Tuesday. After all, Drumpf had embraced earlier that morning the latest crazy conspiracy theory going around: Ted Cruz’s dad was involved in the killing of Johncruz goes ballistic F. Kennedy. “This is nuts,” said Cruz, who is sort of an expert himself on nuttiness, “This is just kooky.”

Of course it is. But for God’s sake, people, what the hell is going on? Have Republicans really lost their collective minds?

Let’s start by looking at what “amoral” means:

a :  being neither moral nor immoral; specifically :  lying outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply <science as such is completely amoral — W. S. Thompson>

   b :  lacking moral sensibility <infants are amoral>

2:  being outside or beyond the moral order or a particular code of morals <amoral customs>

Think about that. Is calling someone amoral worse than calling them immoral? There is a certain predictability in immorality. But amorality is totally unpredictable. And when you think about it, unpredictable amorality is actually the Drumpf brand. Just look at what Drumpf said this morning:

“Lyin’ Ted” is now — we will now put that aside.

After months of saying he had never “met a person that lies more than Ted Cruz,” or saying how “unstable” Cruz was, it’s all over now. Last night Drumpf said that Cruz was “a tough, smart guy. And he has got an amazing future.” Now that is amoral. That is Drumpf.

As I mentioned, Cruz also called Drumpf a pathological liar and a narcissist. Here’s how he put it:

This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.

He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying. And it’s simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist. A narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen.

I’ll leave the clinical diagnosis to others. Is Drumpf a narcissist? He sounds like one. Is he a pathological liar? He sounds like one. But pathological or not, Drumpf is most definitely a liar. He does lie all the time, as Cruz said. But do Republican voters think he is a liar? We will look at that in a minute, but first:

Exit polling in this country is done by a firm called Edison Research. On its website, the research and surveying company says:

When you hear election projections, results or analysis about who voted for whom, that information comes from Edison Research.

Something called the National Election Pool, which is essentially a collection of all the big news organizations in America—NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox “News,” and the AP—contracts with Edison Research to provide the exit polling data upon which analysis is done and projections are made.

If we wanted to know whether Republicans who cast votes think Drumpf is truthful, it would be Edison Research who would find out for us. So, what did the company find out when it conducted exit polling and asked Republican voters in Indiana yesterday whether Drumpf is “honest and trustworthy”?

We’ll never know.

Edison Research never asked that question. Didn’t bother. Didn’t think it was relevant, I guess. And apparently the big news organizations didn’t either, since they didn’t demand such a question. Maybe it’s because they believe everyone already knows Drumpf is a liar or maybe it’s because they don’t want to know. Beats me.

But what about the other side? What about Democrats? Was the question of honesty brought up by pollsters?

Yep. You guessed it. Edison Research did ask Democrats that question about their candidates. They were asked if they thought Hillary and Bernie are “honest and trustworthy.” Why do you suppose Edison Research would ask that question of Democrats and not of Republicans? Could it have something to do with an institutional bias against Hillary Clinton? Of course it does. It’s painfully obvious. There is never any talk about Bhillary and bernie trustworthy poll in indianaernie being dishonest or untrustworthy. But pollsters had to ask voters about him to cover up the real reason they were asking, which was to find out how deep was the belief that Hillary is not to be trusted, an idea pushed by television pundits and journalists. Talk about dishonesty. (By the way, exit pollsters have asked that question of Democrats since the New Hampshire primary on February 9 but have not asked it of Republicans even though both Drumpf and Cruz have poor ratings with fact-checkers.)

If you watch a lot of TV news, like I do, there are two things you notice right away about the general coverage of the primaries. One is obvious: TV news is wild about Drumpf. He is a boost to the corporate bottom line. The more stupid and nasty and offensive things he says out loud, the better for ratings. That’s pretty easy to see and, unfortunately, easy to understand. The TV news business is in fact a business. Ratings come first, journalism awaiting drumpf rally.jpgsecond, often a distant second. Drumpf can phone in interviews from Trump Tower and many of his rallies are broadcast on cable news television for large chunks of time. They preempt other programming to bring them to us. Why? Because you never know what controversy might erupt right there on “our” network! I’ve even seen, numerous times, a little box on the side of the screen featuring a Drumpf-less podium, indicating that soon, very soon, Drumpf will be speaking! Stay tuned!

The second thing you notice about general TV news coverage of the primaries is that it is quite slanted against Hillary Clinton in an important way. That’s where the “honest and trustworthy” question comes in. Pundits and reporters mention it all the time—but only in connection with Hillary Clinton. Most of what Bernie Sanders says about health care or college tuition or wage inequality is ignored. But when he attacks Clinton’s honesty, it’s all over the place.

But the honest and trustworthy question never comes up in the context of Drumpf. Why? Because there is no ratings price to be paid for questioning Hillary Clinton’s integrity. There is a price to be paid for being too rough with Drumpf. He’ll bully and boycott you. He’ll attack you. He’ll embarrass you. And reporters and pundits do not want to displease their bosses, so they tiptoe around all the lies and amorality. They really do. It’s sort of like when you are around a volatile person who you know is just waiting to go off on someone and you don’t want to be that someone. It’s that bad.

It’s not that journalists on television, at least some of them, don’t point out Drumpf’s lies—well, they don’t use that word; it’s usually put much more delicately—but his lies are never put in a larger context of his “honesty” or “trustworthiness.” It’s more of a “well, that’s just Donald being Donald” critique. It’s almost like Drumpf’s propensity to lie is part of his charm. I remind you of what I posted the other day about pundit Elise Jordan’s remark on MSNBC: “there’s something kinda likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.” She essentially explained why we see the kind of coverage we see of Drumpf on cable television.

Is it even possible to imagine something similar being said about Hillary Clinton? That she is “kinda likable” despite being allegedly dishonest? Of course it’s not. Hillary Clinton not only has to pay a heavy price for all of her past mistakes and misstatements and policy flips, she is held accountable for Bill’s too. Part of Drumpf’s general election strategy will be to tie her to her husband’s philandering. Another part will be to tie her to her husband’s trade and Wall Street policies. And another part will be to attack her for being dishonest and untrustworthy. That’s pretty much how it will go.

And how will cable news handle all that? All the outlets will be there to cover every insult, every attack, every lie, as if it wasn’t coming from a man who could call Ted Cruz a liar every day for three months and then one night wipe it all away with an “Attaboy, Ted!” As if it weren’t coming from a man who pretends to be a friend of the working class but who thinks their wages are too high. As if it weren’t coming from a man who claims he was against the war in Iraq but was for it before he was against it. As if it weren’t coming from a man who claims to love Hispanics but got the idea for his infamous Mexican rapist rant from a hater named Ann Coulter.

And as if it weren’t coming from a man who wants to change libel laws so journalists can be subject to more lawsuits from politicians, a man who said:

The press is amazingly dishonest. The press is a real problem in this country. I’m dealing with some real sleazebags up here…[but] they’re worse than the politicians.

Thankfully, not all of the press is “amazingly dishonest.” Print and online journalism is doing a pretty good job of covering Drumpf. But, outside of three glorious hours on MSNBC every weeknight, cable television journalism, at least as I have witnessed it for months now, is not. There is a lot of dishonesty involved, but it is not hurting Drumpf, it is helping him. I have already heard talk of how Hillary-Drumpf will be a cage fight, of how the ratings will soar when the two finally debate. It will be a circus, a freak show, made for TV. Well, we shall see. But my fear is that if it is—if it is allowed to be—the amoral Two-Headed Man will steal the show.

Remarks And Asides 2/23/16

Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, also known as Tim Allen, told Megyn Kelley that as a conservative he likes John Kasich because “the guy’s got a great heart.” Uh-oh. Somebody should tell Tim that there is no room in his party for guys with great hearts. Even now, the party pooh-bahs are busy figuring out a way to talk Kasich into dropping out of the race so a guy with a tinykasich should drop out heart, Marco Rubio, can stop the guy who has no heart at all for Mexican immigrants or Muslim women and children fleeing the horrors of war.

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Speaking of Kasich, he got in a little trouble for his Leave It To Beavers perspective. Explaining how he first won elective office, he uttered:

We just got an army of people and many women who left their kitchens to go out and go door to door and put yard signs up for me. All the way back, when things were different. Now you call homes, and everybody’s working.

Yep. In their bare feet, pregnant with future Republicans, women in droves left their soufflés and their hungry husbands and helped make John Kasich a future failure as a guy with a great heart in the 2016 Republican primary.

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Talk about failure, a headline on HuffPo announced: “The Sunday Talk Shows Didn’t Ask A Single Presidential Candidate About The Kalamazoo Shooting.” The story noted:

There were over 350 mass shootings in the United States in 2015, and on an average day in this country, guns kill 88 people, according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety. That adds up to an annual average of over 30,000 gun deaths a year.

Now, clearly there are very good reasons why the Sunday interlocutors weren’t interested in asking any questions about the Kalamazoo shooting. The killer’s skin was light, not dark. The killer’s name was Jason Brian Dalton, not Jalal Bakri Dhakir. And according to reports, neighbors said he was a ‘laid back guy’ who ‘likes guns,” not a laid back guy who likes Allah. So, let’s all move on.

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And let’s move on to Ted Cruz, a good evangelical Christian who follows at least one of the ten commandments to the letter: “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” We don’t need The Donald to tell us what a cheating liar Cruz has been lately. And now, apparently, we don’t need The Donald to build a big beautiful wall down south and then deport those 12 million paperless immigrants who live here and who have been driving conservatives crazy by raping and killing everyone in sight, when they’re not housekeeping for rich Republicans or renovating their big homes or picking fruit on their huge farms.  We now have another big-government conservative who can do that big-government job:

Cruz told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Monday that yes, should he be elected president, his administration would deport all 12 million undocumented people estimated to be in the U.S. and wouldn’t allow them to return.

Wow! Cruz out-Trumped Trump! Not only will he ignore the words of his alleged Lord and Savior el Jesús —“Love your neighbor as yourself!”—he will use a mammoth government bureaucracy to round up those rapists and killers and housekeepers and construction workers and fruit pickers. Plus, and plus, plus, plus, he won’t let ’em back in the country like Trump will! Jesus Almighty. What can Trump do to top that? Just wait. He’ll think of something. It’s only Tuesday.

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Meanwhile, Trump rightly celebrated his great victory in South Carolina by saying this:

short people.jpgWe won with everything. We won with women; I love the women. We won with men. I’d rather win with women, to be honest. We won with evangelicals, like unbelievable. We won with the military. We won with everything. We won with highly educated, pretty well educated, and poorly educated. We won with everything. Tall people, short people, fat people, skinny people.

I must say I am very surprised and disappointed that Trump won the short-people vote. They really do have no reason to live.

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Poor Marco Rubio. The communications director for Ted Cruz claimed that Rubio told a person reading a Bible: “Got a good book there, not many answers in it,” which, if you think about it, isn’t all that bad a thing to say to someone reading the Bible. Turns out, though, that what Rubio really said was something much dumber: “Got a good book there, all the answers are in there.” All the answers are in there? Not just a couple? Not just some? You really mean all the answers are in there? Okay, then, some smart journalist should ask Mr. Rubio where in the Bible are answers to the following questions:

  • How do we cure cancer?
  • Why are people born with birth defects?
  • Why does a loving, omnipotent Heavenly Father stand by and watch millions of children starve to death every year or suffer in useless religious wars or otherwise experience unspeakable horrors?
  • What is that strange mess on top of Donald Trump’s head?
  • What is that strange mess inside of Donald Trump’s head?

Tell us, Marco, give us chapter and verse, as to exactly where we can find these and other answers in the Bible, since they are all in there somewhere.

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Finally, speaking of mysteries, there is Ben Carson. The man was by all accounts an amazing brain surgeon. And that is very strange because the man appears not to have a properly functioning brain himself. Forget all the dumb things he wrote in his book or has said on the campaign trail since he started. His most recent comments about President Obama (in an interview with Politico’s Glenn Thrush) aren’t even comprehensible. He was asked about how he felt about the 2009 inauguration of our first African-American president. Here is the transcript:

GLENN THRUSH: It was a pretty interesting moment in American history, right? Did you derive any joy out of that? Any sense of pride? How did you sort of‑‑how did you process that?

DR. CARSON: You know, I did not. I mean, like most Americans, I was proud that we broke the color barrier when he was elected, but I also recognize that his experience and my experience are night-and-day different. He didn’t grow up like I grew up by any stretch of the imagination.

GLENN THRUSH: That’s right.

DR. CARSON: Not even close.

GLENN THRUSH: He’s an “African” American as opposed to an African-American.

DR. CARSON: He’s an “African” American. He was, you know, raised white. Many of his formative years were spent in Indonesia. So, for him to, you know, claim that, you know, he identifies with the experience of black Americans, I think, is a bit of a stretch.

GLENN THRUSH: That’s interesting.

Interesting? Nope. Like Ben Carson, it’s just plain weird.

Wrapping Up Iowa

1. Aren’t we all glad that caucus nonsense is over for a while? That has to be the dumbest way to conduct democracy that could ever be conceived. Geeze.

2. Despite what you are hearing from silly pundits on TV and from Bernie Sanders backers, Clinton’s win in Iowa (yep, she won, although you wouldn’t know it from the coverage), as narrow as it was, represents a pretty eye-opening defeat for Sanders (for those whose eyes will open). Iowa was the perfect state for him to win, given that the Democratic electorate in Iowa is, next to maybe Vermont, the most liberal in the country (one survey found that 43% identified as socialists, compared to only 38% who identified as capitalists).

Plus, let’s not forget, Sanders himself said that if the turnout was high, he would win. It was and he didn’t. After New Hampshire, where all Clinton has to do is narrow Bernie’s lead a little bit, she has a distinct advantage.

By the way, this is how Fox presented Sanders this morning:

bernie the socialist on fox.jpg

It’s only the beginning. If Sanders were to win the nomination, he would be a sought-after-Stalinist.

3. It’s no real surprise that Cruz won in a state dominated by Bible-thumping reactionaries, since he is a Bible-thumping reactionary himself. He began his victory speech with,

God bless the great state of Iowa. Let me first of all say — to God be the glory.

Let me first of all say—to God be the glory when Cruz and his faithful followers figure out that he will nevva evva be president of the United States.

4. Donald Trump’s lack of essential on-the-ground organization in Iowa and his pretending he knew what evangelical Christianity was hurt him. Those vulnerabilities won’t matter as much going forward, if he is willing to spend his own money to do some real campaigning, instead of relying on big rallies and counting on cable outlets to give him free air time. And, yes, I am hoping he stays in the race until the bitter end.

5. Now on to Marco Rubio’s third-place finish, which he celebrated like he had just won a gold medal in a hot dog slam fest. Howard Fineman, Global Editorial Director at HuffPo and an MSNBC talking head, wrote some things so remarkably inaccurate about Iowa Republicans and Rubio that I need to make a few remarkably accurate comments about his claims. He said:

…the plain-spoken and sensible voters of the state also plucked a new star out of the crowd: the comparatively moderate and photogenic young senator from Florida, Marco Rubio. Cruz showed in Iowa that he could take a punch from Donald Trump. And Rubio showed that he could sneak up on the other two with charisma, charm and a sense of optimism.

Let me start with the easy part. Republican voters in Iowa might be plain-spoken, but they ain’t sensible. Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Pat Robertson have won the Iowa Republican caucuses. So, please. Look in the dictionary for the definition of sensible.

But perhaps it is Fineman’s description of Rubio as “comparatively moderate” that offends the most. Moderate compared to whom? Rubio himself rejected a similar description on television this morning. He said he is as conservative as anyone in the race. And he’s sort of right about that in the sense that he is at least as conservative as anyone in the race. But in some important ways he is much more conservative. Just because Beltway insiders have somehow placed him into the moderate lane this primary season (you hear that a lot on cable news) doesn’t make it so. He is as radical a Republican as you are ever to meet.

Two examples among many (I omit his weird and harmful economic and tax ideas): Rubio turned his back on his own immigration reform bill after getting criticized by the Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters of the world. He not only turned his back on humane reforms necessary to help his party’s national chances, but he turned his back on himself! That ain’t easy, people. But that’s not all. As Republican Lindsay Graham pointed out this morning, not only does radically right-wing Ted Cruz’s position on abortion outlaw any and all of them, but Rubio is just like him:

“Marco has no exception for rape and incest. I think it’s going to be very hard to grow the party among women if you’re gonna tell young women, ‘If you get raped, you’re gotta carry the child of the rapist.’”

If Marco Rubio’s anti-immigrant stance and his have-your-rapist’s-baby government mandate qualifies him as a “comparatively moderate” Republican these days, then the party is, as I suspect, irredeemable. And maybe contemporary journalism is too, if someone like the respected Howard Fineman can be so wrong about something so easy.

rubio shineFinally, about Rubio’s incessant godspeak. During his weird non-victory speech last night, he said, “I want to thank an all powerful and mighty God for the chance that he has given us to be a part of this endeavor here in Iowa.” And then later, “I thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ and I thank God for allowing me the opportunity to come this far with each of you.” Apparently after hoisting Ted Cruz into first place last night, the “all powerful and mighty” God’s arms were too tired to lift Marco higher than third.

Or, maybe the Almighty had nothing to do with any of it.

[photo credit: screenshot from TV using TEC’s special God-detecting filter]

 

False Symmetry, Again

An excited conservative commenter called my attention to a column published in my local paper. The column was written by two long-time Washington insiders, Cokie and Steve Roberts.

Cokie, currently an analyst and commentator for, respectively, NPR and ABC News (and lately appearing now and then on MSNBC), is the daughter of a Democratic congressman (who was once Majority Leader in the House and who died in a 1972 plane crash) and of a Democratic congresswoman (who was elected to replace her husband and who served from 1973 to 1991). Both of Cokie’s parents served the good folks who live in and around New Orleans. Steve Roberts, a magna cum laude Harvard graduate, has worked as a journalist for The New York Times and The Washington Post and for U.S. News and World Report. He also plays the analyst and commentator role on both radio and television.

You get it by now. These two are the very definition of “Beltway insiders.”

The column that so excited my conservative commenter, titled in most papers as ‘The rise of liberal self-delusion,” began this way:

The civil war ripping through the Republican Party is familiar by now. But a similar battle inside the Democratic Party is just starting to emerge. Orthodox liberals are trying to mimic the tea party and impose political correctness on moderate apostates.

Ahh, I thought to myself.  It was only a matter of time. It was only a matter of time before some prominent Democratic commentators joined the anti-liberal Third Way crowd by comparing what recently energized  liberals are doing to what Tea Party nuts like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have been doing for some time now. There apparently is a law of symmetry in the physics of polite political punditry that occasionally requires the obligatory “both sides are guilty” column or TV rant, and the Roberts duo did not disappoint.

They unbelievably and absurdly compared the nomination of Tea Party freaks like Christine “I’m not a witch” O’Donell and Sharron “Second Amendment remedies” Angle and Todd “legitimate rape” Akin to Elizabeth Warren and New York’s Bill de Blasio. They took the hopeful, if unrealistic, words of a very liberal and very excitable guy, Adam Green (who co-founded the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group that dares to help liberals run political campaigns as liberals and, much to the chagrin of Wall Streeters, sometimes win as liberals), and turned those words into “nonsense” and “self delusion.” It’s as if the anti-liberals of the Third Way, that group of mostly wealthy quasi-Democrats who work and play in Manhattan’s Financial District, had dictated this column from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

It’s not that there isn’t a point to be made about ideological “purists” who think that their brand of politics is a perfect fit in every nook and cranny of the country.  Of course it is ridiculous, at this point in time, for liberals and progressives to think that a bona fide left-winger could win in a bona fide backwater state like Arkansas (the example the two pundits used was former Democratic senator Blanche Lincoln, who was challenged in the 2010 primary in Arkansas by “a left-wing primary opponent”). I have criticized some liberal Democrats myself (including Adam Green) for not recognizing the sobering reality that in places like where I live, here in Petticoat Joplin, running on in-your-face orthodox liberalism is not a winning strategy for knocking Republican Ozark Billy Long off his taxpayer-subsidized D.C. bar stool. So, it’s not bad advice to warn Democrats that ideological purity can be harmful to the overall cause.

But for two prominent Democratic columnists to say that well-meaning liberal Democrats “want to impose their orthodoxies on everyone else”—just like what they call the ‘Ted Cruz Wing” of the Republican Party wants to do—is beyond absurd. The extremism of Ted Cruz and other teapartiers is real extremism, representing reactionary, roll-back-the-clock danger to the country. Does Cokie and Steve Roberts think that trans-vaginal probes are the moral and political equivalent of, say, tougher banking laws? Huh? Liberals are not authoritarians seeking to force Americans to bow their knees to Iron Age biblical morality or to the politics derived from selective readings, or from convenient interpretations, of the Old and New Testaments. They are mostly people who think that the wealthiest country in the history of the world ought not to have so many working class folks struggling to survive in the midst of all that wealth, and that an appeal to common sense and decency should be sufficient to make the point.

The Roberts’ column, as an apparent tribute to Beltway blindness, puts Elizabeth Warren, as sober and sane a thinker as you will find in politics, in the category of “the loony left.” As if economic populism is on a par with kill-the-New-Deal conservatism. As if fighting for reproductive and gay and voting rights is equally as extreme as shutting down Planned Parenthood and promoting Bible-inspired homophobia and making it harder for minorities to vote. As if believing in science is the same as, well, not believing in science.

“This is a moderate, pragmatic country. Any party that ignores that truth is doomed to defeat,” the D.C. pundit power couple say with Third Party conviction. Yeah, well, moderation and pragmatism are not the same things. Political moderation is a product of compromise between competing visions, even if the competing visions themselves are often fierce and intense and far from moderate. Pragmatism in politics is the idea that compromise is sometimes necessary to solve problems. In other words, pragmatism leads to compromise, which leads to moderation. The salient point is that one can be a left- or right-winger, committed to one’s principles, committed to fighting for them, but still be a pragmatist who settles for some middle-of-the-road compromise to get things done, if that is truly the only way to get things done.

And when you see it that way, when you see it in the sense of getting things done, of making the government work, you can clearly see that there is no comparison between enthusiastic but ultimately pragmatic liberals and authoritarian Tea Party conservatives, folks who won’t compromise with anyone and who would shut the entire government down or ruin our national credit worthiness, hurting millions of people and costing billions of dollars, merely to make an ultimately fleeting political point.

Sadly, Cokie and Steve Roberts, guardians of the mythical “center” in American politics, can’t, or won’t, see the difference.

How Ted Cruz May Save The Republican Party

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

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

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

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

This development, my friends, should trouble Democrats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Debt Ceiling Tale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

huffpo on shutdown

Cruzosaurus Tex: Sarah Palin With A Penis And A Princeton Pedigree

Every now and then some people will claim they have seen the Loch Ness Monster. Once in a while there will come forth folks who claim they have seen Bigfoot. And now, on the verge of a government shutdown and with the threat of economic doomsday hanging over the country, there are cryptozoologists in Washington who claim they have seen wandering around the capital an elusive creature called Republicanus moderatus.

All weekend I heard people claim they have seen this mythical being, one who is “reasonable” and wants to “govern” the country. But when more sober-minded people look around for evidence of such a being, it soon becomes clear that once upon a time there were Moderate Republicans roaming the streets of Washington, but they are now extinct. They’re all gone. What few there are left in the country at large are hiding out, trying to live off the land until civilization returns to the Republican Party.

Oh, I know that there are some people who want to keep the legend alive, who don’t want to admit that the disappearance from Washington of such a proud species of reasonable Republicans signals that American governance is in trouble, that our tradition of democratic rule is in danger of being lost. But the truth is that a new species, Republicanus extremus, is thundering around Washington like giant ideological lizards, with sweeping tails that awkwardly swipe at things like ObamaCare, which was created by democratically elected legislators and signed into law by a now twice-elected President of the United States.

These giant ideological lizards, with their survival-of-the-fittest mentality, have either stomped on or chased away from Washington any sign of Moderate Republican. And wishful thinking won’t soon bring that endangered species back to the capital to govern. It will take more than that.

cruzosaurus texThe most ideological lizard of them all is Ted Cruz, who is Sarah Palin with a penis and a Princeton pedigree. His day job is in the U.S. Senate, but he is also moonlighting as the de facto Speaker of the House, since the official Speaker has proven incapable of leading the reptilian rabble. Cruz is commanding a very noisy and destructive pack of giant lizard legislators on a quest to destroy democratic governance and tear down American civilization one law at a time, starting with the new law meant to bring tens of millions of Americans into the health insurance system.

The only hope we have, the only way orderly American governance will continue, the only way we can preserve the long-term well-being of the country, is if Democrats in Washington finally and fiercely stand up and fight Ted Cruz and those who have gone to Washington in order to turn the place into Jurassic Park.

Will they? Will Democrats stand and fight? Will they ignore the ridiculous questions from journalists who want to know if Democrats will “compromise” with Republicans, when in truth Democrats have already compromised to the point of near-surrender?

We shall see.

What Would Ronaldus Magnus Do?

The segment below from Saint Rachel Maddow pretty much says it all about the irresponsibility of not raising the debt ceiling and how none other than Ronald Reagan dealt with the half-nuts in his own party who thought about using the threat of default as a political instrument in the 1980s. Democrats should talk about this, leftish bloggers should post this, liberal columnists should write about this, until we are safely, if we can get safely, past this artificial, ideologically-inspired crisis.

And by the way, Democrats should dope-slap the next dumb-ass journalist who says John Boehner an Mitch McConnell have “tough jobs.” They don’t. People who shovel asphalt for a living without health insurance have tough jobs. There ain’t a damn thing tough about keeping the country from defaulting, from stopping the ideological terrorists from blowing up the economy.

All Boehner has to do is allow a clean debt-ceiling bill to come to a vote in the House—it will pass with Democratic votes and a handful of sane Republicans—and all McConnell has to do is tell his Tea Party colleagues to STFU and let the bill pass, all the while encouraging yet another handful of sane Republicans to vote with Democrats to overcome a filibuster.

After all, the worst that can happen to either of them—loss of their jobs—is nothing compared to what will happen to the country if the suicide bombers get close enough to the full faith and credit of the United States to blow it up.

And if the two Republican leaders aren’t patriotic enough to risk their government jobs for the well-being of the country, may they be forever cursed with listening to never-ending audio loops of IQ-killing Sarah Palin and Ivy League-deflating Ted Cruz defending Jesus-loving Rush Limbaugh’sgreat time in the Dominican Republic,” compliments of a secret supply of Satan-sanctioned, sausage-swelling, slut-seducing Viagra. Amen.

Watch:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Roy Blunt And Republicans About To Exploit Public Ignorance

MSNBC’s star right-winger Joe Scarborough was all excited this morning about the fact that the chaos and confusion Republicans have been causing in Washington has finally started to pay dividends in the form of low approval ratings for the President:

obama job approval sept 2013

“Things are actually breaking our way for the first time in a couple of years,” Scarborough said of conservatives. Except things are not breaking their way. Bloomberg News, reporting on its own poll a few days ago, said the numbers for both Obama and the Republicans “are the worst ever for both.” So Scarborough was simply out of his mind.

But speaking of delusional thinking, perhaps the weirdest, most disconcerting moment on Morning Joe this morning was when Scarborough highlighted this frightening Bloomberg poll result:

debt ceiling result bloomberg

What was weird and disconcerting about the presentation of this particular poll result on Morning Joe was that no one seemed to be frightened by it. And if this poll result doesn’t frighten you, doesn’t scare the Cruz out of you, then you don’t understand what fooling around with not raising the debt ceiling will mean. (Go here to find out and then get really scared, and pissed, about the dangerous ignorance reflected in that Bloomberg poll.)

This dangerous ignorance on the part of the American people—which is partly the result of journalistic malpractice—would be harmless if it weren’t for the fact that it will undoubtedly encourage unhinged Republicans to exploit such ignorance and really push the United States into default, if they don’t get what they want. Just today Politico reported:

A large number of Senate and House Republicans are raising the threat of a debt default to curtail, delay or defund President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. It’s a major gamble — risking the prospect of a first-ever default on U.S. debt — but it’s one seriously being considered by the same Republicans who have refused to join Cruz’s filibuster attempt of the stopgap spending bill to keep the government running.

Not only that, Politico noted that Speaker Boehner “has compiled a debt hike bill with a bunch of goodies that they think House Republicans will vote for, and red state Senate Democrats won’t want to avoid.”

People may think Ted Cruz is a wild-eyed extremist—and he is—but the only thing that distinguishes him from the rest of the Republican Party in Congress is that he and a few others are wild-eyed anti-establishment extremists. The rest of them are wild-eyed establishment extremists who are willing to risk the full faith and credit of the United States to achieve what they could not achieve in the last election: ideological victory.

After not supporting the weird attempt by Ted Cruz to defund ObamaCare via a continuing resolution on the budget, Missouri’s Roy Blunt told Politico:

The debt ceiling provides more of an opportunity to get something than the [continuing resolution] does.

Got it? Using the threat of debt-default, using the threat of economic chaos here and around the world, dynamiting the full faith and credit of the United States, is an “opportunity to get something” says Roy Blunt.

This is dangerous territory. This is alarming stuff. This is Republican politics.

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