Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wingnuts: making progress here Edition

John Cole: McCain on CNN

Not sure if you caught Walnuts on CNN this morning, but he was just sputtering mad and gave one of the most disjointed appearances I have seen in a long time. Apparently McCain is just hopping mad that after he and Sen. Kyl ran around popping off at the mouth that the stimulus has failed, several cabinet secretaries wrote letters to Arizona’s governor asking if Arizona would like to stop receiving funds. After all, the two Senators have claimed it has failed, surely Arizona does not want to take money that will just be wasted.

This was some horrible breach, and really had McCain confused and upset. You see, for the last decade or so, he has been able to say whatever he wants, and no one tried to correct him. Obviously, this development is quite a shock for him.


Far-right blogs and Republican staffers thought they'd found a delicious new anecdote to attack the stimulus package. As is usually the case, they neglected to think it through before making themselves appear silly.

Drudge, running with contracts from the government's stimulus website, claimed that the Obama administration had spent, among other things, $1.19 million on two pounds of ham. Some conservative bloggers, following Drudge's lead, ran with the story. House Minority Leader John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office complained about the "pork" in the stimulus. Republicans sent "blast e-mails of screenshots from the Drudge Report, highlighting the contracts as wasteful spending."

By yesterday afternoon, the Department of Agriculture felt compelled to issue a statement, explaining how terribly wrong conservatives are about this.

Through the Recovery Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made $100 million available to the states for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which acquires food that is distributed to local organizations that assist the needy -- including food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens.

The Recovery Act funds referenced in press reports allowed states to purchase ham, cheese and dairy products for these food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries that provide assistance to people who otherwise do not have access to food. This program will help reduce hunger of those hardest hit by the current economic recession.

The references to "2 pound frozen ham sliced" are to the sizes of the packaging. Press reports suggesting that the Recovery Act spent $1.191 million to buy "2 pounds of ham" are wrong. In fact, the contract in question purchased 760,000 pounds of ham for $1.191 million, at a cost of approximately $1.50 per pound. In terms of the dairy purchase referenced, USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) purchased 837,936 pounds of mozzarella cheese and 4,039,200 pounds of processed cheese. The canned pork purchase was 8,424,000 pounds at a cost of $16,784,000, or approximately $1.99 per pound.

While the principal purpose of these expenditures is to provide food to those hardest hit by these tough times, the purchases also provide a modest economic benefit of benefiting Americans working at food retailers, manufacturers and transportation companies as well as the farmers and ranchers who produce our food supply.

In other words, the conservative activists who pounced on this were thoroughly confused about every relevant detail, including the underlying claim.

I'm curious, though, why these folks don't apply some critical thinking skills to stories like these. When a story seems outlandish, there are four simple words that I find helpful: "That can't be right."

Sure, I realize right-wing bloggers think the Obama administration is some kind of reckless spending machine, so they're inclined to believe the worst. But $1.19 million on just two pounds of ham? That didn't strike conservatives as implausible? Maybe something that warrants a closer look before publication?


This morning, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine became the fourth Republican senator to endorse Judge Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination, further reinforcing the fact that a GOP filibuster would be pointless and Sotomayor will be confirmed.

The question then becomes a matter of timing. The White House and Senate Democratic leaders see no reason to delay a confirmation vote, and intend to vote on Sotomayor before the Senate breaks for recess. At this point, most Senate Republicans don't see the value in pushing the matter off until September, either.

But for the GOP base, that's not good enough. (via Right Wing Watch)

"...[C]onservatives will not be happy if the GOP rolls over with regard to Obama's politically motivated goal of getting Sotomayor confirmed before the August recess," said Curt Levey, head of the conservative group Committee for Justice.

While some conservatives say that GOP senators effectively laid out inconsistencies in her testimony, activists want the slow-news month of August -- when Congress is on recess -- to build a campaign opposing her nomination.

Charmaine Yoest, head of the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life who testified against Sotomayor, said that an extra month would be helpful to her cause.

"The more time we have to educate people, the more we would continue to emphasize to people that a vote for her is a vote for abortion on demand without any restrictions whatsoever," Yoest said.

These groups really seem to believe that Sotomayor's confirmation is in doubt, and if they could just have a little more time, they can rally the troops and defeat the nomination.

I haven't the foggiest idea how or why they've reached this conclusion. It will be interesting, though, to see whether Republican senators try to go along with their demands.

Friedersdorf: Links on Race

-- How enjoyable to listen in as Dayo Olopade and John McWhorter talk about race in America here and here.

-- James Kirchick is spot on about movement conservatism's unfortunate descent into exactly the kinds of racial grievance mongering it once critiqued. It's an excellent blog post, and excerpting won't do it justice, so read the whole thing.

DougJ: From Birchers to birthers

Marc Ambinder thinks the birther movement presents a real problem for the GOP:

The most prominent birthers are Alan Keyes, the former presidential candidate and Obama Senate challenger; Orly Tait, a wonderfully named lawyer from California; Phil Berg, a Democrat; and Michael Reagan, son of Ronald Reagan, and a prominent radio talk show host. This is, at once, a fringe movement and something greater. It’s fringe because no important Republicans believe it, and most are offended by it. It’s greater because some fairly prominent local lawmakers are beginning to sign birther petitions.

At least nine members of Congress have cosponsored a birther bill that would require prospective presidents to affirm their U.S. citizenship. What we don’t know is how widespread the belief is among Republicans—and even if the belief is confined to a narrow minority, whether the belief will spread as Republicans begin to pay closer attention to electoral politics in 2010 and 2012. In the same way that Democrats in 2004 always got a stolen election question (which, to be fair, was at least closer to reality than the birther’s claims), Republican presidential candidates need to figure out how to diffuse angry birthers who are bound to show up and demand their attention. .... The buried lede to this post: Rush Limbaugh claimed today that Obama “has yet to prove that he’s a citizen.” Republicans have to be extra careful. If they give credence to the birthers, they’re (not only advancing ignorance but also) betraying the narrowness of their base. If they dismiss this growing movement, they might drive birthers to find more extreme candidates, which will fragment a Republican political coalition.

Who knows if he’s really right or not. But having people like him discuss the possible problem does start to make it a problem.

Let’s remember that once upon a time, William F. Buckley supposedly stood athwart the John Birch Society, yelling “Stop!”, thus creating a conservative movement that was less frightening to the American public. I don’t know to what extent that really happened, but the Republicans did do a reasonable job of keeping the craziest right-wingers quite for a time. Maybe that time is over.

Update. Interesting idea from SGEW:

Prediction: Sarah Palin (who has said that she will no longer be “P.C.” once she leaves office) will dip her toe into the Birther fever swamp within two months. Whether she crosses that Rubicon will be the determinative watershed moment.

Kleefeld (TPM): Chris Matthews Questions Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) About Birther Bill

Chris Matthews had a truly fascinating interview on Hardball today with Rep. John Campbell (R-CA), one of the co-sponsors of the "Birther Bill" to require that presidential candidates submit proof of citizenship.

After some drawn-out questioning, Matthews got Campbell to say that, yes, he does believe President Obama is a natural-born citizen:

"Okay," said Matthews, "glad we're making progress here."

Sudbay: Mark Sanford to South Carolina: Get over it

Mark Sanford thinks his constituents need to move on:

"I'm looking forward and I think the people of South Carolina are ready to do the same," Sanford said, adding to the media: "I'm going to move on with my life. The question is will you?"
Yeah, that's the question, isn't it? Sure.

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