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Archive for the ‘Republicans’ Category

Why Is The Mustache Getting Paid?

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

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Thomas Friedman’s column in the New York Times today is just gob-smackingly stupid. That’s fairly normal for Friedman, of course, but today’s is a real doozy even by his standards. Here’s how he opens:

I’ve been trying to understand the Tea Party Movement. Sounds like a lot of angry people who want to get the government out of their lives and cut both taxes and the deficit. Nothing wrong with that — although one does wonder where they were in the Bush years. Never mind. I’m sure like all such protest movements the Tea Partiers will get their 10 to 20 percent of the vote. But should the Tea Partiers actually aspire to break out of that range, attract lots of young people and become something more than just entertainment for Fox News, I have a suggestion:

Become the Green Tea Party.
Oh no, it gets even dumber:

The manifesto is easy, too: “We, the Green Tea Party, believe that the most effective way to advance America’s national security and economic vitality would be to impose a $10 “Patriot Fee” on every barrel of imported oil, with all proceeds going to pay down our national debt.”

This is just beyond stupid. For one, there’s the name. Do you really see the right-wing calling themselves the “green tea” anything? The people who use arugala and dijon mustard as short-hand for effete elitism now? Yeah, didn’t think so. But more than that, this just kind of ignores the fact that, you know, the teabaggers are the right-wing. They don’t care about the climate. They don’t believe in global warming. They’re the assholes who tell you how they’re going to leave all their lights on or drive around as much as they can in their SUV on Earth Day for the sheer joy of being assholes. And, oh yeah, they’re not big fans of taxes either. I suppose Friedman would probably argue that his “Patriot Fee” isn’t a tax, but good luck getting them to buy it. But what’s extra confounding is that Friedman concedes that he knows this is all stupid nonsense:

Yes, I know, dream on. The Tea Party is heading to the hard libertarian right and would never support an energy bill that puts a fee on carbon.

Ok, so you just wasted 300 words. Awesome. What’s the point then?

So if there is going to be a Green Tea Party, it will have to emerge from a different place — the radical center, a center committed to a radical departure from business as usual. Acting on that impulse, Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joseph Lieberman had forged a bipartisan climate/energy/jobs bill that deserves an energetic centrist Green Tea Party to support it.

This critical piece of energy legislation was supposed to be unveiled by the three senators on Monday, but it was suddenly postponed late Saturday because of Senator Graham’s fury that the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and the White House were planning to take up a highly controversial immigration measure before the energy bill.

If this is what the Obama administration is doing — to score a few cheap political points with Hispanics — it is a travesty. The bipartisan energy bill is ready to go. It is far from perfect. Indeed, it is a shame the fossil fuel industries still have such a stranglehold on Congress. But it’s the best we’re going to get, and we have got to get started. However, without a centrist Green Tea Party movement — one that brings the same passion to cutting emissions that the Tea Party brings to cutting deficits — even this effort will never pass.

A couple of things here. First of all, what the hell would a “radical center” even look like? The center, by definition, is defined by other points. So a “radical” center, I suppose, would dogmatically insist on plopping itself right in the middle of the left and the right and refusing to move? Or refusing to acknowledge that maybe being precisely in the middle isn’t the right place to be? I mean, where does one find the middle of something like the debate over whether or not to invade Iraq? Declare that they won’t support invading Iraq, but that they could get behind invading the Ivory Coast? It’s all very confusing to me, as these poorly thought out pieces of pretension from writers like Friedman usually are. But I digress.

The other problem here is that this is just drastically ignorant of the underlying politics. Lindsay Graham has, in the past, been a supporter of immigration reform efforts. He’s touted his support for comprehensive immigration reform, in fact. There’s no obvious reason why moving forward with legislation on that issue should cause him to drop support for another worthwhile bill he’s supported. It’s a naked political ploy by Graham to turn his back on the bill, and gum up two Democratic initiatives at the same time ahead of the election. If Democrats acquiesce and shelve immigration reform, Graham will just find another reason to oppose the bill, the same way he used the passage of healthcare reform to pivot to a position of being unable to support immigration reform anymore. But then, even if Democrats do go ahead with immigration reform and climate legislation, it doesn’t really make much sense to blame them for Graham’s temper tantrum. Lindsay Graham is a big boy. He’s a United States Senator fergawdsake. And, at best, he’s using his potential support for a bill he ostensibly supports, regarding an issue he ostensibly recognizes as being vitally important, to ransom the very large Senate majority into dropping another item on their agenda. That’s despicable behavior, particularly if you actually believe Graham appreciates how serious climate issues are. And yet, Friedman is chastising the majority over it, rather than calling out the United States Senator acting like a psychopathic adolescent.

I don’t really expect major newspaper columnists to write intelligent things anymore, but it still puzzles me why publications that seem to regard themselves seriously, like the Times, pays people who seem to know nothing about American politics to write about the subject on such valuable space. Especially if they’re having financial problems.

Whither the Teabaggers?

Monday, April 19th, 2010

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Kevin Drum wonders how much longer the Tea Parties have before they flame out:

My take on the tea partiers is that they’re basically a 21st century version of the Birchers of the 60s. Except that where the Birchers had to rely on mimeograph machines to get out their message, the tea partiers have Fox News and the internet. At first glance, this is nothing but bad news: the Birchers were bad enough as it was, so just think what kind of damage they could have done with modern communications technology.

But maybe not! Being limited to flyers and PTA meetings might have slowed the rise of the Birchers, but it also made them a fairly long-lived movement. The tea parties, conversely, skyrocketed to fame in just a few months. And we all know what happens to novelty acts that skyrocket to fame: most of them plummet back to earth within a year or two. We just get bored too quickly these days, and the media moves on to new things. So it’s possible that the tea parties peaked too fast and don’t have much longer to live. In fact, my sense is that the media is starting to get bored with them already.

They’ll certainly last through the November election, but I wonder if they’ll be able to keep up a head of steam much after that?

There’s really two questions here-how long can the teabaggers last and how long will the media remain interested-and the important thing to remember when answering the question is the same in both cases. At the end of the day, no predictions about the tea parties can be made without reminding yourself that there’s nothing all that special about the teabaggers. Rather, they’re just run of the mill right-wing talk radio listeners who have taken to making a spectacle of themselves now that they’re in the opposition. So, in that sense, they’ll always be there, much as the talk radio audience and general right-wing fringe has always been there. How long will they be able to keep up the public spectacle of it all? I doubt that will last much longer, but I could be wrong, although I’m not sure that matters either way. I think it’s more important to keep in mind that much of the media coverage of the teabaggers has been driven by the fact that it was a non-election year, and so therefore anything that provided a narrative of overt conflict-with-theater was bound to attract media attention. But with an election in 2010, there’s less business attraction to the teabaggers for the cablers, and the tea parties will probably fade into the general noise of the election. They are the Republican base, after all, and I don’t really expect them to act much differently now than they ever have, or the media to cover them any differently. So once the campaign season really heats up, expect the tea parties to run out of steam, whether because the GOP fully co-opts it, or because the media loses interest, in which case I suspect most teabaggers will as well.

Community Organizers

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

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Count me in as someone who just doesn’t get the right’s obsession with denigrating community organizers. Aside from the offensives of it all, which Benen lays out nicely, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense. At least in the context of the 2008 election it was meant to be a shorthand for “Barack Obama is inexperienced.” Attacks against your opponent’s perceived lack of experience has pretty much never worked in modern American Presidential politics, but what else did the Republicans have to work with after 8 years of Bush? But now, Obama is the actual President. Only 42 other individuals in the history of the United States have done that. And even though he’s only been President for 16 months, that’s infinitely more experience in the job than any of the Republicans criticizing him have. Sarah Palin isn’t very bright, but even she has to realize that it would be absurd for a former half-term Governor and mayor of Wasilla, Alaska to argue they have more relative experience for the Presidency than the incumbent President…right?

The Original Backroom Deal

Monday, March 29th, 2010

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Ezra has a good couple of posts noting the irony of claiming that the Founders would detest the process that created the healthcare reform bill by pointing out the number of compromises that went into crafting the Constitution itself. It’s a good example of how mindless right-wing talking points are these days, since it’s not exactly like the 3/5 Compromise or Great Compromise aren’t taught in basic history classes or anything. I’d also add that the Constitutional convention itself was a big back room deal. The convention was quite literally held in total secrecy so as to not create public outrage/a backlash in favor of the Articles of Confederation amongst a public skeptical of a stronger federal government. They even kept the windows of Indendence Hall shut constantly to keep passer-by from overhearing what was going on inside, even though it was a blistering hot summer.

More than that, I’d just point out that the “cornhusker kickback” is a pretty good example of what out system is set up to do, with various representatives looking out for their districts and their voters. It’s a bit annoying to have to listen to people who deify a group of people in one breath, then claim that people using the system they created as it was designed to be used is a crime against democracy or something.

David Frum Fired From AEI

Friday, March 26th, 2010

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Frum broke the news yesterday that he’d been terminated from the American Enterprise Institute, and today he tells Mike Allen that he does think it was a result of his “Republican Waterloo” post that’s been tearing up the internet since Frum wrote it. Assuming that’s true, and I don’t see any reason to think it isn’t, it’s an incredible sign of just how rigid the right has become in demanding complete and total conformity on  a number of isses. After all, it’s not like Frum is endorsing the Affordable Care Act, indeed, his basic premise is that the ACA is horrible, and that Republicans made it more horrible than it needed to be (in Frum’s eyes) by refusing any number of opportunities to jump at a desire of some Democrats to compromise and drastically scale down the bill. Instead, they simply opposed the bill in lockstep at every turn, forcing the Democrats to stick together and pass a comprehensive bill. I happen to think that, from a conservative standpoint, Frum is right. Had Chuck Grassley and Olympia Snowe reached some sort of compromise with Max Baucus last July and been able to brng 4 or 5 Republican votes along with them, comprehensive reform would have been dead. By opposing in lockstep, especially after Democrats pushed their caucus to 60 members, Republicans forced marginal Democrats like Baucus and Ben Nelso to negotiate with more liberal members of their caucus instead of less conservative Republicans like Olympia Snowe or Richard Lugar. But even if you think Frum’s analysis is off-base, it can hardly be said that it represents some sort of grave ideological sellout. Frum isn’t criticizing the underlying ideology of opposition at all, rather he’s criticizing the tactics Republicans used. But apparently we’ve reached a point where even criticism of Congressional Republican strategy won’t even be tolerated on the right.

No Surprise Teabaggers Resorting to Violence

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

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There’s been a rash of relatively small-scale poilical violence, brick throwing, verbal threats, that sort of thing, directed at supporters of healthcare reform, but now it seems someone has tried to kill Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA).

Some people have pointed out that this is the natural extention of an essentially authoritarian movement, and that’s fair enough. It’s certainly true that an element of the American conservative movement has adopted rhetoic and tactics that are boilerplate for fascist movements, and the only thing left is widespread violence against political opponents, but I think the particularly American strain of wingnutism has a more complex sense of identity that leads to this point. Essentially, as both Digby and Amanda Marcotte often write about, the conservative movement is built around the belief that everyone else’s opinion is illegitimate, and basically as been since Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” campaign. This attitude is put most starkly on display when conservatives disparage East coasters, even though a huge amount of the population is concentrated on the Eastern seaboard, or when Sarah Palin praises small-towns as the home of “Real Americans.” Implicit in the framing is the idea that non-conservatives are interlopers, that their ideas, and even their existence, is illegitimate. This is why I take claims that conservative anger is based around Obama’s blackness; they do this pretty much every time they’re out of power, even when the Democratic President is a white Southern male.  If you believe you are by definition representative of the majority at all times, and all viewpoints other than yours are fundamentally illegitimate, you can’t really process electoral or legislative defeats any way other than by assuming them to be the result of some nefarious skull-duggery, which is why Republican attacks on procedure had such resonance with the right-wing. Aside from the generic ability to oppose the other side, it gave them the rationalization they needed for loss; Democrats cheated.

Of course, central to the survival of this worldview is the assumption that they do, in fact, represent a majority of the people in the country. It’s why conservatives talk about what “the American people” want so often, and why “coast vs. heartland” culture warring is framed from the presumption that land mass is of more importance than population. If the perception that the right-wing movement is supported by a majority and that only they’re ideas are legitimate/Constitutional/whatever is punctured, their entire political argument goes up in smoke.  But in the meantime, it’s a toxic mix of self-righteousness, hate, and paranoia, the logical extension of which is to perpetuate violence against people who don’t agree with you. After all, if Democrats just ignored the will of the overwhelming majority of the population and cheated the legislative process to implement a plan to literally destroy the country, why wouldn’t you resort to violence in response?

The only questions left to ask are how many people will die before we get serious about addressing it this time, and whether or not it will take another catastrophe like this.

Breaking: Conservative Has Empathy!

Monday, March 15th, 2010

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It’s sort of sad that I was totally surprised by this piece that appeared at David Frum’s site but, well, there you have it: it’s surprising to see conservatives displaying empathy. Actually, I guess it’s technically not empathy, since the writer is describing something that’s actually happening to him, as opposed to something happening to someone else he can imagine happening to him, but hey, I might as well cut him some slack for the effort.

I do have to say though that I still find the complete absence of any empathy from the right in the healthcare debate totally bizarre. I’ve long since reconciled myself to the fact that almost no one on the right understands the issues involved in the healthcare question whatsoever, so maybe it’s simply a function of that, but still, it’s really odd that apparently no writers at any major conservative publications can imagine themselves or someone they know becoming a casualty of our dysfunctional insurance regime. Especially because they’re writers! After all, almost no conservative publications actually turn an operating profit (nor do many liberal publications, to be fair), and they all largely depend on a mix of donations from readers and rich benefactors to make up the difference. But considering the shape the economy is in, can no conservative writers really imagine that donations will drop this year, and the publication paying their check might have to downsize? Can none of them really not imagine themselves falling victim to a recession and then developing a serious medical condition while they’re between jobs? Do none of them realize that should this happen to them, or someone they know, they’ll be completely shut out of the insurance market? It’s just very odd, and makes me wonder whether American conservatives really are compltely devoid of empathy, or are just that ignorant of health insurance issues.

It’s Not Democrats Fault Republicans Are Tremendous Hacks

Friday, March 5th, 2010

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Jamison Foser does some digging, and finds that not only did the media not think budget reconcilliation was some great evil when Republicans used them to pass Bush’s 2003 tax cuts on a 50-50 vote, they basically didn’t even realize the process existed, even though they’re pretty much obsessed with it now, and largely convinced that if Democrats use it, it will damage the legitimacy of their legislative agenda. Kevin Drum says this is a failing on the part of Democrats:

In fairness, though, part of the problem here is the Democrats didn’t complain about reconciliation back in 2003. There’s no reason for the media to make a fuss if the opposition party hasn’t bothered to bring it up, after all.This doesn’t excuse the fact that they keep getting basic facts wrong this time around, like the fact that Dems aren’t planning to pass the entire healthcare package through reconciliation, only a small package of amendments. And it doesn’t change the fact that the conservative noise machine is way more effective than anything liberals have. Even if congressional Democrats had tried to make an issue out of reconciliation in 2003, they probably wouldn’t have gotten much traction.

Still, you have to try. Republicans figure they can get some attention for this kind of nonsense if they yell loud enough, and they’re right. Democrats don’t even think of it.

I wouldn’t really say I think Kevin is wrong in this analysis, I just think he’s got it backwards. The reconcilliation process is part of the law governing the process of passing budget related legislation in the Congress, and it’s a perfectly legitimate tool for Congressional majorities to use when it’s allowable. There simply wasn’t any reason for Democrats to complain about Republicans using reconcilliation, because there was nothing wrong with that. One thing I think we really have learned beyond any shadow of a doubt from the past two weeks is that, as a whole, the Republican Party really is nothing but a collection of pure hacks at the moment. Republican Senators are well aware of how reconcilliation has been used in the past, what reconcilliation bills they’ve voted for, and that this is a rather mundane procedural move given the landscape. And yet they’re pretty much united in painting the process as controversial and illegitimate. It’s just shameless. Another problem, the one that Foser nails down, is that our elite media institutions and major “journalists” are just completely clueless. Not only do they not have the nerve to resist whatever meme it is the right-wing noise machine is peddling on any given day, they don’t even seem to have the inclination to try to do even a little legwork to learn about Congress, its rules, or even recent legislative history. I haven’t heard any Republicans who are complaining about reconcilliation be asked about the tactics House GOP leaders used to get Medicare Part D passed.

Conservative Praises Inefficiency, Inconvenience

Friday, February 26th, 2010

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One thing that’s often hard to get across in writing, and even to speaking to people, is just how far out of the mainstream the conservative movement is, even on taxes. After all, no one likes paying taxes, or fees, or fines, to the government, but when you can actually strip away the emotion and the cognitive dissonance a lot of people have about these things, you generally can come away with an understanding that they’re necessary for things people like. No one likes paying the fees to register a motor vehicle, for example, but if you really try, you can get them to acknowledge that maintaining roads costs money, and that that money has to come from somewhere. Ditto for traffic fines; no one likes getting caught or having to pay the fine, but no one wants people driving down highways at 90 MPH or speeding through neighborhoods, so some sort of punishment that actually stings has to be put in place to ensure compliance with the rules (although that’s not counting for people who simply think it’s different when they do it, obviously). Now though, Eric Felten actually makes the case for making dealing with government fees as difficult and inconvenient as possible. He starts out by excoriating red-light cameras, a topic that’s probably best left for another post (for the life of me I can’t understand how the notion that people have a right to go through intersections after the light turns red without getting caught for it became so widespread), but goes on to complain about…parking meters:

Take Montgomery County, Md. Last month it started a new program that lets motorists pay at parking meters with their cellphones. How easy! How convenient! How civilized! No more digging around the ashtray for dimes and quarters. No more pestering passersby to change a dollar. Of course, when you have to scrounge for coins to feed the meter, you’re painfully aware of just how much the parking regime is costing you. Not so with the mobile-phone parking app. According to a demonstration on the Web site of the company powering the service, you just key in how long you’d like to leave your car, and you’re on your way. The pesky question of how much you’ve just paid doesn’t come up.No doubt you can find out later from your online statement, and surely there are some savvy and well-organized folks who do. Yet for most of us the cost fades toward invisibility, and that’s when fees go to town. Policymakers have long understood that the less visible—or “salient,” to use the economist’s term of art—a tax is, the easier it is to raise. Which is why Milton Friedman, looking for ways the federal government could collect more money during World War II, recommended the creation of income tax withholding (an innovation he was not proud of). It’s also why “value-added taxes” act like steroids when it comes to bulking up government.

What I find interesting about this isn’t so much the comical level to which Felton takes his anti-government beliefs (the parking regime? Seriously man?), bu rather, how the examples he cites and the effect thereof mostly take apart his arguments themselves. What Felten has basically discovered is that people don’t so much hate cost as they hate hassle. It’s true that people hate dealing with parking meters, or waiting in line at toll booths, but it’s not so much the cost of a parking space they mind so much as it’s the inconvenience factor. Whether it’s the inconvenience of having to find spare change to pay parking meters or the burden of looking at/paying a bill as a whole, as opposed to splitting it into increments, the basic takeaway is that people are perfectly willing to pay more for parking spaces, or tolls, or whatever, so long as it’s more convenient. Indeed, it’s odd to see someone who I imagine probably fancies himself a free-market champion complaining that people are willing to pay more in exchange for something, in this case, convenience.

What this really is is an example of how exactly conservatives are very much out of the mainstream. Conservatives like Felten hate government, don’t much care for public services, but to the extent they do, really don’t like paying for them. I very much doubt that Felten objects to having public roads, or places to park, for example, he just doesn’t think he should have to pay the cost of providing those roads or parking spaces, or pick up any of the opportunity cost that goes along with him occupying a parking space. To that end, he imagines that a lot of people are like him, but it turns out they’re not. They’re more or less ok with paying for parking spaces, they just don’t like how inconvenient it is to pay a parking meter. Make it more convenient, and they’re perfectly fine with it. So fine, in fact, they’re willing to pay higher fees. And people who can pay a bill in increments find it more manageable than paying in one larger lump sum. But conservatives like Felten hate government, have built an entire political movement around hating government, and think other people should hate government too. But it turns out that most people don’t really hate government, so long as their routine interactions with it are convenient and at least somewhat pleasent. To that end, Felten thinks we ought to deliberately make routine interaction with government as inconvenient as possible, simply so that more people will hate government. It’s like that old joke that Republicans spend their time complaining that government doesn’t work, and when they elected they get straight to proving themselves right. Only this is an actual conservative really writing that government should be deliberately inconvenient so that more people will agree with him.


The Oppressiveness of Conservative Identity

Friday, February 26th, 2010

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Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponuru, in a tribute to American exceptionalism/identity, explain how mass transit is evil:

The Left’s search for a foreign template to graft onto America grew more desperate. Why couldn’t we be more like them — like the French, like the Swedes, like the Danes? Like any people with a larger and busier government overawing the private sector and civil society? You can see it in Sicko, wherein Michael Moore extols the British national health-care system, the French way of life, and even the munificence of Cuba; you can hear it in all the admonitions from left-wing commentators that every other advanced society has government child care, or gun control, or mass transit, or whatever socialistic program or other infringement on our liberty we have had the wisdom to reject for decades.

Matthew Schmitz points out that calling mass transit “socialistic” is stupid, given that highways and roads are also provided and maintained through government spending and taxation, but I think Yglesias’s critique of this as simply another instance of conservatives demarcating what does and does not count as “American,” as dismissing anything outside of that narrow conception subversively pro-European, is more accurate.

For my part I’ll just note that this yet again proves that the critiques you hear from conservatives from time to time about how liberals want to use public policy to force changes in peoples’ lifestyle is complete bullshit. It’s not so much that liberals don’t want to do this (basically any change to public policy, or lack of change for that matter, is going to effect lifestyle decisions at the margins), but rather that conservatives want to do this to. Yglesias points out that you never really hear conservatives or libertarians complain about local regulations designed to maintain the low-density, car-centric nature of suburbs. I would add that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movement conservative complain that things like the federal tax preference for homeowners over renters induces people to live in suburban or exurban areas over urban areas, or that the lack of quality mass transit systems in most American cities basically forces the people who live their into car-centric lifestyles, whether they like it or not. Which again, isn’t to say that using public policy to drive lifestyle patterns is bad, per se, it’s just to point out that conservatives who talk about “small government,” individual choice, etc. are usually full of crap, and that they’re just as comfortable, or even moreso, with using government policy to influence the decisions people make.

Washington Post Doesn’t Report King Comments On IRS Attack

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

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I haven’t said anything about Steve King’s remarks alluding to some sympathy for the guy who flew an airplane into an IRS office, killing an employee, because I figured that they were disgusting enough that there wasn’t any need for someone with as small a platform as me to weigh in to state the obvious. Someone who doesn’t have a small platform, on the other hand, is The Washington Post, and according to Steve Benen, they haven’t mentioned King’s comments once either. I don’t really pay much attention to the Post’s newspages anymore, and I’d like to pay less attention to the paper as a whole, so I don’t necessarily want to say they absolutely should have run it, but I will say that the lack of a mention highlights a major problem for Democratic politicians and progressive activists; you just can’t get the corporate media to build an accurate narrative about the degree to which actual Republican members of Congress are dangerous, crazy, extremists. King’s comments are downright shocking, and there’s really no way to defend them. Nor are they the first offensively crazy/hateful things King has said. He’s long been a major basher of gays and immigrants in particular. But you’ll never see King referred to regularly as “the Republican Congressman from Iowa who regularly engages in gay bashing and sympathized with the IRS attacker.” And that reluctance to accurately portray the Republican fringe in Congress significantly impacts the public’s understanding of just how out there the GOP is.

Once Again, Voters Are Bad With Nuance

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

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Jonathan Cohn has a fairly lengthy, solid piece taking apart the premise of attacks on “backroom deals” in healthcare reform that you should read in full. For my part, I’ll just add that, once again, what you’re dealing with is a situation where Republican demagougery is furthered by the relative ignorance of the audience for the meme. “Backroom deals” in common American political imagination, most directly refer to the “smoke-filled rooms” in which party bosses used to nominate politics. As American elections moved more towards primary elections with the party rank and file voting for nominees, these were derided, and seared into the public imagination as bad, corrupt, things. In the legislative context, of course, cutting deals in private negotiations are a fundamental aspect of life.Complaining about it is akin to complaining about tacklng in football. But people aren’t really good at making these distinctions in talking points,in part because no one has ever thought to blur the lines before. So when Republicans decide to employ yet anothr misdirection argument, a lot of people wind up looking the wrong way.

Obama’s Healthcare Summit

Monday, February 8th, 2010

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by Brien Jackson

I don’t really understand what’s so hard to get about this idea:

President Barack Obama is planning to host a televised meeting with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders on health care reform.

The Feb. 25 meeting is an attempt to reach across the aisle but not a signal that the president plans to start over, as Republicans have demanded, a White House official said.

 “I want to come back [after the Presidents Day congressional recess] and have a large meeting — Republicans and Democrats — to go through, systematically, all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward,” Obama said in an interview with Katie Couric during CBS’s Super Bowl pre-game show Sunday.

The idea strikes me as pretty straight-forward; the White House is hoping to re-create the dynamic from the House GOP retreat. That is, the Republicans will throw out a lot of false, insane, claims, and Obama and healthcare experts will be right there to deftly bat them down. The goal being, to make Obama look good, and House Republicans look ridiculous, just like in Baltimore. And by announcing it so publicly, Obama has put the GOP in a bit of a bind; if they don’t show up, the White House will be further able to paint them as the ‘party of no” and point out that they aren’t offering alternative solutions. Not that any of that matters, of course, at the end of the day, it’s just an attempt to get something on C-Span, and create some political theater that generates some momentum for Democrats on the hill to pass the bill. I really don’t understand why we’re pretending not to get this.

Obama Hits His Stride

Friday, January 29th, 2010

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I didn’t have the time to do a full State of the Union reaction post, though I wanted to but suffice it to say, I think it was one of the most effective speeches Obama has ever given. It wasn’t the most inspirational, nor did it have the most soaring rhetoric, but that’s not really what the situation called for. Obama needed to project confidence and strength, both to the nation and to Congress, and I thought he did that very well. The speech ran a bit long and contained the requisite laundry list of proposals, but interspersed within were digs at Republicans, both procedural and substantive. He dinged them on the filibuster and climate change denialism. He laughed, he poked fun, he was light and jovial throughout. And more importantly, you could visibly feel the spirits of Congressional Democrats lifting. By about the mid-point of the speech they were smiling, laughing, tossing amused glances at uncomfortable Republicans. As I saw someone (Chait maybe?) remark, Pelosi and Reid should have gaveled their chambers into session after the speech and passed the entire agenda right then; it certainly looked like they might have had the votes for it.

But that pales in comparison to what Obama did today. Going to House Republicans at their retreat in Baltimore, Obama fielded questions from the most vehement of his opposition, the House Republican caucus, and he ran circles around them. One thing I don’t think conservatives realize is what talk radio has done to their attachment with reality. You can toss something around the echo chamber, unchallenged, and it starts to sound pretty good. When someone a lot smarter than you is handling the nonsense in real time, to your face, well, that makes you look quite a bit dumber (and it doesn’t help that House Republicans are really dumb to begin with). When you couple this with the address Wednesday night, it’s been a very good couple of days for the White House. They’re clearly back on top of the political world, at least for now.

What does it mean on a substantive level? It’s hard to say, but something has clearly had an impact on Congressional Democrats. Nancy Pelosi is absolutely determined to pass healthcare reform, and even Kent Conrad and Ben Nelson are holding out the possibility of going to reconcilliation to pass a bill.  A lot of Democrats clearly understand that they have to do healthcare reform, for political, policy, and moral reasons, and the momentum seems to be back, at least somewhat. Is that because of the White House? Maybe not, but something has lit a fire under very key players in the caucus to make this happen.

There’s hope yet.

Sociopaths to the Left of Me, Clowns to the Right…

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

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Apparently Tom Coburn is so interested in delaying healthcare reform he’s willing to risk the temporary defunding of the Defense Department to do so:

Way back on December 2nd, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) filed a single-payer amendment to the Senate health care bill, which was supposed to come up for a vote this afternoon. But at the last moment, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), at the behest Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), demanded that the entire 700-plus page amendment be read aloud on the floor. That’s happening now.

Under normal circumstances, this would be a 10 or 12 hour dilatory tactic. But not today. Today, Democrats were planning to file for cloture on the Defense Appropriations bill, in order to get it passed by Friday before midnight when department funding runs out. If the entire amendment is read aloud, it’s likely that the Senate won’t be able to pass the defense bill until Saturday at the earliest, and would have to pass a short-term continuing resolution to keep money flowing.

“The only thing that Sen. Coburn’s stunt achieves is to stop us from moving to the DoD appropriations bill that funds our troops – not exactly the kind of Christmas gift that our troops were expecting from Dr. No,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Sigh. On the one hand, it’s easy to read stories like this and perk up. Hypocrites!, you think. If Democrats had done this to stop, say, Social Security privatization the entire Republican Party would have been anywhere they could get their face declaring that Democrats were traitors who didn’t care about the troops! And you’d be right, of course, but then you stop and think and, well, what does that get you?

This is a great example of how Republican mendacity and media stupidity intersect to fundamentally tilt the field against progressives. On the one hand, the opposing party is made up of completely amoral sociopaths who have no problem being brazenly hypocritical or opening lying to advance their goals. Hell, look at all of the talk radio show hosts hawking gold merchant scams. That’s how they treat their own audience! You think they give a damn about telling the truth to anyone else if it costs them a marginal dollar? So what do you do, call them out on it? Well there’s no harm in trying, but it’s just not going to permeate the noise unless it takes hold as part of the larger media narrative, but that’s never going to happen because everyone knows Republicans love the troops and would never ever do something like that right? Or if it does get mentioned, no one would put two and two together and point out that that meme is total bullshit, and that Republicans are shameless opportunists first, last, and always. And no, you can’t return the favor when they’re in the majority, because the media will have a field day with that, because Democrats Hate the Military.

So the next time you’re ready to piss in somebody’s cornflakes because Democrats are bitches, take a second and consider what they’re playing against. After all, the Detroit Lions could hang with the 2007 Patriots if the referees let them get away with pass interference on every play too.

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