Sunday, June 21, 2009

Stoopid Wingnut Tricks

Before the stoopid begins, here's some smart from our President on Father's Day:

Cole: Give ‘em enough thread…

And our commenters will usually sum things up better and more succinctly than I can. I’ve been mulling writing something about the neocons’ constantly shifting attitude towards the events in Iran and their bizarre claims (here; here; via) that Bush’s Freedom Agenda is what set all the good things going on in Iran into motion, but ninerdave has already said it all:

What is funny to me is the wingnuts rooting for an overthrow of Ahmadinejad at the same time the wingnuts are rooting for an Ahmadinejad win. All of this is without acknowledging Mousavi, was one leader in the Islamic revolution. He’s not going to be some liberal, DFH that the wingnuts think he is. Nor is he going to be the flaming hate monger Ahmadinejad is.

OF course no matter what the outcome: Obama fucked it up and the NeoCons were right. This will be played out on the Sunday talk shows for a while and also.

I don’t think that’s an exaggeration at all. Here’s what Ari Fleischer actually said:

No one yet knew the final outcome, he wrote in an e-mail to our colleague Glenn Kessler, but “one of the reasons there is a substantial reform movement in Iran — particularly among its young people — is because of George W. Bush’s tough policies.” He noted that Bush’s policies in Lebanon also helped in the recent elections there. …

So “I think it’s fair to say the George Bush’s Freedom Agenda planted seeds that have started to grow in the Middle East,” Fleischer concluded.

In other words: no matter what happens, it proves that Bush was right.


    I'll give the Weekly Standard credit for clarity. The conservative magazine published two very similar pieces today -- one from Stephen Hayes and William Kristol, the other from Fred Barnes -- offering the identical attack with indistinguishable language: they want President Obama to do more to intervene in Iran.

    The pieces are almost comical in their belligerence towards the White House. Hayes and Kristol lament Obama's "weakness," and described the U.S. president as "a de facto ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei." Barnes insists, "Obama has tilted in favor of the regime. The result is personal shame (for Obama) and policy shame (for the United States)."

    What I find interesting about the 2,000 words of the conservatives' angry and righteous denigration is how remarkably narrow it is. For Hayes, Kristol, and Barnes, it's almost as if the argument presented by the president is so self-evidently horrible, they don't feel the need to explain why they think it's wrong.

    By now, we've all heard the pitch. Obama believes it would be counterproductive for Iranian protestors for the U.S. to intervene on their behalf. The more Americans weigh in to "help" reformers, the more it's likely to help Khamenei and Ahmadinejad -- throwing them a public-relations life preserver when they need it most -- and the easier it is to make dissidents look like American stooges.

    Gary Sick, a former National Security Council expert on Iran in the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations -- not, in other words, a liberal activist or party hack -- explained the other day, "The Obama administration has handled this pretty well. There's nothing we can do in a proactive way that is going to improve things. We could make things a lot worse."

    It's a position endorsed by other Republicans such as Dick Lugar and Henry Kissinger. Nick Burns, an Undersecretary of State in the Bush administration, said this week that Ahmadinejad "would like nothing better than to see aggressive statements, a series of statements, from the United States which try to put the U.S. at the center of this."

    Why do the neocons believe this is a misguided approach? We don't know; they won't say. Jon Chait noted yesterday:

    What's remarkable to me is that those on the other side refuses to rebut it. Today's Washington Post op-ed page has two more columns lambasting Obama for failing to embrace the demonstrators. Today's offerings are by Charles Krauthammer and Paul Wolfowitz. Neither one of them even mentions, let alone answers, Obama's argument for why embracing the demonstrators would be counterproductive.

    I don't understand how you could write a column without ever once addressing the primary argument for the proposition you're arguing against. The low quality of argument on this topic from the right is striking.

    Chait's criticism of Krauthammer and Wolfowitz applies just as easily to Hayes, Kristol, and Barnes. All five of them are so focused on attacking Obama, they never quite get around to refuting the argument from the president they find so offensive.

    Is the administration's position justified? Is it sensible? Might it be the responsible approach under the circumstances? The strategy is not above reproach, but the Weekly Standard neocons just won't, or can't, challenge the policy. It's bizarre.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele offered his perspective yesterday on how policymakers can reach agreement on reforming the health care system. It's easy to mock his rhetoric, but it's worth remembering how common this kind of thinking is in Republican circles.

"[I]f it's a cost problem, it's easy: Get the people in a room who have the most and the most direct impact on cost, and do the deal. Do the deal. It's not that complicated.

"If it's an access question, people don't have access to health care, then figure out who they are, and give them access! Hello?! Am I missing something here?

"If my friend Trevor has access to health care, and I don't, why do I need to overhaul the entire system so I can get access he already has? Why don't you just focus on me and get me access?"

Now, it's obvious from these remarks that Steele is clueless. He's so lost, I almost feel bad for the guy. That said, hearing Steele's "do the deal" remarks, it reminded me of the same, intellectually lazy approach we've heard from Republicans on a wide variety of issues.

In 2006, John McCain explained his solution for the war in Iraq: "One of the things I would do if I were President would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, 'Stop the bullshit.'" Around the same time, George W. Bush reflected on a solution for violence in Lebanon: "What they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over."

Last year, McCain explained that we could resolve FISA-related controversies by having "patriotic Americans ... sit down together and work this out." A month before the presidential election, McCain said he had a plan to address Social Security issues: "We've got to sit down together across the table."

And now Steele thinks policymakers can resolve complex health care issues if they simply "do the deal" and "give" Americans "access."

Digby once famously described this as the "head-knocking style of governance" -- complex problems can be resolved through force of will, because Republicans say so. Nuances, history, competing goals, divergent ideologies -- nothing matters except "doing the deal."

I realize it's nice to think well-intentioned people can sit down in a room and resolve complex issues, but if policymakers could snap their fingers and fix historic challenges, they would. For those of us above the age of 11 who try to take government seriously, it's just not that easy.

  • Joe Sudbay (DC) adds, about the Sunday Talk Shows lineup:
    Iran and health care appear to be the topics du jour.

    John "bomb, bomb Iran" McCain gets two opportunities to push his view that the U.S. should do more (even though most experts seem to think that would backfire in Iran.) No doubt, McCain's lackey, Lindsey "the sinner" Graham, will echo his words.

    On health care, maybe some of the Senate Democrats can explain how they're going to stop screwing up real reform.

    Here's the lineup:C's "This Week" — Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.


    CBS' "Face the Nation" — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. ...


Newsweek had an item the other day that I found a little startling.

In February, the Missouri Information Analysis Center, one of several "fusion" centers created after 9/11 to share intelligence among local, state and federal agencies, issued a "strategic report" warning about a resurgence of the "modern militia movement." Last week, on the same day that white supremacist James von Brunn allegedly killed a guard at Washington's Holocaust Memorial Museum, Missouri's police chief informed legislators that the fusion center had suspended production of such reports. Why? Outcry from conservative activists, who felt they were being tarred too. [...]

They may talk about it less in public now, but law-enforcement and intel officials tell NEWSWEEK they're quietly scrutinizing threats from the far right just as carefully as those from Islamic extremists.

So, let me get this straight. Law enforcement officials decided, on purpose, to stop preparing reports on potentially dangerous radicals, because conservative activists said scrutiny of extremists made them feel put upon? Conservative activists whine about all kinds of things; shouldn't law enforcement officials ignore them and focus on real threats?

Thankfully, it appears their fear has subsided, and officials are back to taking these extremists seriously again. Given recent events, that's obviously a good thing. As awful as the tragedies in Kansas and D.C. were, if law-enforcement and intel officials are back to "scrutinizing threats from the far right" without undue fears of conservative criticism, that's a good thing.

  • From the comments:

    People are going to have to care a whole lot less what conservatives say or how they feel about a lot of things.

    Posted by: Varecia on June 21, 2009 at 9:44 AM

Speaking of people needing to care a whole lot less about what conservatives think . . .
Politicians tend to care about polls. Other considerations may apply pressure to an office holder, but nothing is quite as effective as cold, hard data pointing to public attitudes. When push comes to shove, popular ideas are much easier for a policy maker to support than unpopular ones.

In the context of the debate surrounding a public option in health care reform, lawmakers on the Hill may not care that President Obama wants such a provision and has a mandate to get one, but the recent poll numbers are so one-sided, the results should be hard for Congress to ignore.

An NBC/WSJ poll released the other day found that 76% of Americans believe it's either "extremely important" or "quite important" to "give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance."

The wording of that question was a little awkward, though. The results from the latest NYT poll are even more encouraging.

Americans overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the health care system and are strongly behind one of the most contentious proposals Congress is considering, a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll found that most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes so everyone could have health insurance and that they said the government could do a better job of holding down health-care costs than the private sector.

Respondents were asked, "Would you favor or oppose the government's offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans?" It wasn't even close -- 72% supported the public option. Among Republicans, the ones who are supposed to find the very idea of a public plan so outrageous, 50% favor the same policy idea.

Now, for conservative Republican lawmakers, it's likely that none of this matters. A public option can save money, can enjoy broad public support, and can make all kinds of sense, but they have a philosophical objection that trumps everything else. Fine.

But conservative Republicans represent a fairly small minority in Congress right now. For those Democrats who are reluctant to support a public plan, the concerns may be strategic -- they're worried that they'll be punished by voters for supporting a controversial idea. But that's precisely why a poll like this matters. It's not like Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, and Evan Bayh can go to the next caucus meeting and say, "If we support an idea with 72% national approval, voters will kill us."

The president wants a public option. A majority of the House wants a public option. It's likely a majority of the Senate wants a public option. A clear majority of Americans want a public option. Oh, and not incidentally, a public option makes a lot of sense as a matter of public policy.

I don't know what more it would take to stiffen the spines of wavering Democratic senators who just can't seem to bring themselves to do what needs to be done.

Bill Maher's AMA Commercial

Your Abbreviated Pundit Round-up

Sunday punditry, with a twist of revolution.

Frank Rich:

That First 100 Days hoopla seems like a century ago. The countless report cards it engendered are already obsolete. The real story begins now. With Iran, universal health care, energy reform and the economic recovery all on the line, the still-new, still-popular president’s true tests are about to come.

Here’s one thing Barack Obama does not have to worry about: the opposition. Approval ratings for Republicans hit an all-time low last week in both the New York Times/CBS News and Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls. That’s what happens when a party’s most creative innovations are novel twists on old-fashioned sex scandals.

Michael Gerson: Count me in as another fighting keyboarder who demands Obama side with freedom fighters at risk for getting themselves killed.... from my living room. When I was with the Bush administration, look how effective we were in using "Freedom" in every speech. Stop listening to dinosaurs like Kissinger, and get out there and agitate.

Roger Cohen [added]:

Khamenei has taken a radical risk. He has factionalized himself, so losing the arbiter’s lofty garb, by aligning himself with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against both Mir Hussein Moussavi, the opposition leader, and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a founding father of the revolution.

George Will: Obama is attempting to use health reform to destroy insurance companies. I can prove it by pointing to rabid anti-insurance picks like Tom Daschle and Katherine Sebelius. And by fudging the uninsured to make them look feckless and transient. And by making reform go away with tax credits. And by using Occam's Razor. Of course, Occam's Razor suggests that the simplest explanation is that I don't understand the topic.


Sully: Why Froomkin Was Fired

"Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do…

Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy. It also resonates with readers and viewers a lot more than passionless stenography I’m not sure why calling bullshit has gone out of vogue in so many newsrooms — why, in fact, it’s so often consciously avoided. There are lots of possible reasons.

There’s the increased corporate stultification of our industry, to the point where rocking the boat is seen as threatening rather than invigorating. There’s the intense pressure to maintain access fo insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.

If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers. I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter - whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship — or whatever it is — out of the way," - Dan Froomkin, presciently describing why he was fired.

Think Progress: CNBC’s Larry Kudlow defends corporate greed in debate with TP’s Faiz Shakir.

Last night on CNBC, ThinkProgress editor-in-chief Faiz Shakir debated CNBC host Larry Kudlow about a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal which revealed that the CEOs of banks receiving government bailout money are expensing travel on private jets for personal vacations. “I think it’s great because I want to stimulate the economy,” Kudlow said of taxpayer-funded private jet trips by bank CEOs. “I want to help the resorts. … I’m glad the CEOs are going around. I just wish they’d take me with them.” Faiz responded:

I do have a problem when they’re taking taxpayer money. Larry, you hate paying taxes. I understand that. But if there’s one thing you hate more than paying taxes, it’s seeing those taxpayer dollars go to waste. And that’s what’s going on here.

Watch it:

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