Thursday, August 6, 2009

Playing with Fire

Tristero on Amateur Hour
The most shocking thing, and the worst thing, about the fake healthcare riots and the very real thuggishness of the paid Republican operatives involved in them is not that they're happening. That's what Republicans do, after all. No, the really terrible thing is that by all appearances, the Democratic party was caught completely by surprise.

It's as if the eight years of Bush/Cheney, with its lockstep Republican Congressional goons, its relentless intimidation and marginalization of anyone to the left of the John Birch Society, its proactive (and successful) effort to target Democrats for prosecution by hand-picked Attorneys-General - it's as if all of that - and so much more - never happened.

Democratic leadership once again failed to perceive political reality as it is in 21st century America: The Republican Party is dominated by fascists who will do anything, anything at all, to undermine what's left of this country's democracy after the successful Bush/Cheney assault on it. After all, this is a party that used the Department of Homeland Security to hunt down Democrats when they bolted from Texas in order to avoid committing political suicide. After all, this is a party that aggressively opposes the regulation of computerized voting machines, voting machines manufactured by none other than prominent members of their own party.

Shutting down town hall meetings is precisely the kind of tactic these characters love, they spend night and day meticulously planning them, and get well-paid to boot. Shame on Democrats for not seeing these latest Republican riots coming.
The truly insane conspiracy theories touted by the right against President Obama have sparked some worthwhile discussions about the political mainstream and partisan fringes. But Bob Somerby noted yesterday that no one should mistake this far-right madness as a new phenomenon. Let's not forget what conservative activists were saying throughout the '90s:

* As governor, Bill Clinton murdered many rivals. Hillary Clinton was involved.

* As first lady, Hillary Clinton was involved in Vince Foster's death.

* As governor, Bill Clinton trafficked drugs through Mena, Arkansas.

* Bill Clinton was himself a major coke user. It's why his nose is so red.

* As a graduate student, Bill Clinton visited Moscow because he was a Soviet agent (or something).

* The Clintons decorated the White House Christmas tree with condoms and drug paraphernalia.

TV preacher Jerry Falwell, a self-proclaimed Christian leader, peddled a nauseating video with lurid conspiracy theories -- and was nevertheless invited onto Meet the Press as a guest.

This also ties into the point I emphasized yesterday: while the Democratic mainstream keeps its nuttier members at arm's length, insane ideas popular with far-right activists are quickly embraced by the GOP mainstream. This is clearly the case with the deranged reaction to Obama's presidency, but it was also true in the Clinton era.

For example, Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana was inexplicably made chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and considered every wild-eyed accusation made by an unhinged activist worthy of a congressional investigation. In one instance, Burton held hearings -- for 10 days -- on the Clintons' Christmas card list. In another, Burton fired a bullet into a "head-like object" -- reportedly a melon -- in his backyard to test the absurd notion that former White House counsel Vince Foster was murdered.

Again, Burton wasn't just some talk-radio shock-jock or publicity-hungry activist; he was the chairman of a congressional committee with oversight authority over the White House. And he wielded that gavel as if he were a fringe blogger with a chip on his shoulder, reinforcing the non-existent line between the GOP base and the GOP mainstream.

In this sense, all the talk about "Obama Derangement Syndrome" and "Clinton Derangement Syndrome" is probably mistaken. It has far less to do with the presidents themselves and far more to do with the pathological tendencies of those who seek to destroy Democratic administrations.

Krugman: One of these things is not like the other

A number of people in the news analysis business seem to be equating the role of liberal activists in making trouble for Republicans back in 2005, during the debate over Social Security privatization, with that of conservative activists in making trouble for Democrats over health care reform.

Indeed, activists made trouble in 2005 by asking Congressmen tough questions about policy. Activists are making trouble now by shouting Congressmen down so they can’t be heard.

It’s exactly the same thing, right?

Seriously, I’ve been searching through news reports on the Social Security town halls, and I can’t find any examples of the kind of behavior we’re seeing now. Yes, there were noisy demonstrations — but they were outside the events. That was even true during the first month or two, when Republicans actually tried having open town halls. Congressmen were very upset by the reception they received, but not, at least according to any of the report I can find, because opponents were disruptive — crowds booed lines they didn’t like, but that was about it.

After that, the events were open only to demonstrated loyalists; you may recall the people arrested at a Bush Social Security event in Denver for the crime of … not being Bush supporters.

So please, no false equivalences. The campaign against Social Security privatization was energetic and no doubt rude, but did not involve intimidation and disruption.

  • attaturk: You can never say, “Y’know, that’s a good point, maybe I’m wrong”

    And it isn't just people trying to rationalize why the hell they were all for invading Iraq six and a half years ago. It applies to just about every villager when they get called for tossing out some right-wing tripe.

    Lou Dobbs won't just say, "On reflection this birther stuff is ridiculous nonsense, I should just go back to what I'm good at, disgustingly and mindlessly bashing Mexicans." No, he just digs himself in deeper.

    And so it is with The Village and it's attitudes toward the teapartiers and ending civil discourse by screaming over it, an Orange Pekoe Putsch. After all, as Marc Ambinder reflexively said, "it's just like the liberals when Bush tried to reform social security".

    Well, no. When Josh Marshall reminded Ambinder that the protest over social security "reform" did not involve actually screaming at meetings to ruin them, threatening representatives with physical violence including assassination, and generalized douchebaggery, the response was telling:

    Democrats may have used different tactics -- protesting outside of places as opposed to inside of them -- but that's not terribly germane.

    Well, aside from that being the entire point of what Marshall just said, and that it completely contradicts your original argument, you're right Marc, it is not terribly germane, to you.

Sargent: Tea Party Brigade Now Calling Itself A “Mob”

Hey, if the “mob” label fits…

The Tea Party activists are now referring to themselves, with no discernible trace of irony, as a “mob.”

Tea Party organizers are circulating an email containing video of the ad the DNC ran yesterday describing the town hall rowdies as a “mob.” The email contains a link to this post over at, the online headquarters of the Tea Party movement:

Time to show them what a REAL grassroots MOB looks like!…

If advocating free speech, peaceful dissent, individual liberty and fiscal responsibility makes us a mob… we’ll take the label.

We’ll be launching a new campaign called “The People’s Mob” here shortly.

Asked for a response, DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan joked: “Admitting you’re a mob is the first step.”

It is indeed an interesting messaging concept.

C&L: Frank Luntz on Beck's show: The White House's language on astroturfers is 'pure hate'

Glenn Beck, of all people, is shocked, shocked we tell you, at the kind of langugage that's being used to describe the ginned-up teabaggers who are invading health-care forums with the intent of disrupting them and destroying the discourse these events are intended to engender.

Yesterday on his Fox News show, he brought on Republican pollster Frank Luntz to shake his head:

Luntz: And for the comments of people like actress Janeane Garofalo ... it's hateful. And it's awful to use that word, Glenn. But what's coming out of the White House, the language that they are using, and that you see also occasionally from L.A., is pure hate.

This, on the Glenn Beck show.

At least Beck had some vague awareness of this irony, and mentioned it a little earlier in the exchange, though without having thought through its implications:

Beck: I'm looking at the words you used here: "right-wing extremists," "desperate Republicans," "angry mobs," "the mob", "manufactured anger," "Brooks Brothers brigade." I don't remember hearing these words coming from the Bush White House. And I'm not a defender of the Bush White House by any stretch of the imagination. But I don't remember anyone saying anything like that coming out of George Bush's ... realm. There are political hacks that said some awful things, um, but this? Really? Did we call Democrats "mobs"?

Luntz: It's character assassination is what it is. And it's something that was learned under the Clinton administration. They began this in '94, '95, we saw this with the whole Monica Lewinsky thing, when anyone said, 'Hey, what happened here?', if you challenged the Clinton administration, they went after you, they went after your family, they went after your business. It's a viciousness that you see on the left.

Beck: Look, there is -- there was -- I'm a political, um, um, talk-show host and anchor. I have said vicious things. That's different than the administration coming out and saying these kinds of things. You have an official endorsement of this kind of talk is dangerous in this country, is it not, Frank?

Actually, Glenn, vicious talk gets "officially endorsed" when it is not only permitted and condoned but celebrated on television and radio shows like yours. And when it's you doing the talking, we hear that President Obama is a racist who hates white people and white culture; that he's leading the country down the path to fascism, or to socialism, or whatever flavor of totalitarianism you're flinging about this week; that his policies will enslave us.

But it's good of you to notice that this kind of talk is indeed "dangerous" -- no matter who's using it.


JedL (DK): GOPer jokes about Dems getting "lynched" at town halls

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) reveals the Republican Party's idea of ha, ha, ha:

"This particular meeting, in a way is a little bit unique," said Akin. "Different people from Washington, DC, have come back to their districts and have town hall meetings, and they almost got lynched."

The audience then broke out into laughter and applause.

"I would assume you're not approving lynchings, because we don't want to do that," Akin said, putting his hand to his neck in imitation of choking, which got audience laughing some more. "But the point is, people are really upset at some of this legislation, and with very good reason they were upset."

I'm sure Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) -- hanged in effigy by an anti-health care teabagger -- is laughing right along with Akin. What a riot these guys are!

Think Progress: Cornyn: GOP ready to capitalize on Americans’ ‘fear’ and ‘anger’ in the 2010 elections.

Although RNC Chairman Michael Steele yesterday tried to distance the Republican Party from the angry protests at town hall meetings around the country, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is excited about them. According to The Hill, Cornyn believes that the “fear” and “anger” of Americans will be an advantage for Republicans in the 2010 elections:

Fear, I would say, precedes anger, and I think there are a lot of people who tell me they are scared of what they see coming out of Washington in terms of spending and the debt and muscular federal intervention on everything from financial institutions to healthcare,” Cornyn said. “It’s almost like a part of the grieving process.” [...]

“No one would have ever thought six months ago we would be where we are today. I see real opportunities for us,” Cornyn said at a meeting with reporters. “2010 did not look like it was going to be a particularly friendly year for us.”

The GOP seems to be more excited at the prospect of health care and economic reforms failing so that they use them for electoral gains than at these problems actually being solved. Just last month, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said that if the GOP could “stall” or “block” health care reform, it would be a “huge gain” for Republicans in 2010.


RNC Chairman Michael Steele seems to realize the angry far-right mobs showing up at Democratic town-hall events may be problematic for Republicans, and insisted yesterday that his party is not involved with those who use intimidation tactics to stifle public discussion.

"We're not inciting anyone to go out and disrupt anything," said Steele. "We're not organizing the town halls," only encouraging individuals to visit their congressman or senator to "express their point of view."

"There's no upside for the Republican Party [in the protests]," he said later in the call. "That's not something that's coordinated or deliberately set in motion by me or anyone in the state party.

"...To sit back and say this is a Republican cabal is a bunch of baloney. And you can substitute that 'b' for something else if you want."

Steele added that Republicans "are not encouraging people to be angry to the point of being brutish and ugly."

They're not? The angry activists have already become brutish and ugly, and they've been cheered on every step of the way by elected Republican leaders, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who crowed over the right-wing "backlash," and promised a "long, hot August" for Democrats. His office promoted the mob attacks again yesterday.

For that matter, the NRCC is publicizing "Recess Roastings," promoting the notion that, as Republican leaders boast, town-hall meetings have become "town-hell" meetings.

I don't blame Steele for trying to slowly walk away from the right-wing mobs, but after all of the party's cheerleading and promotional efforts, it's a little late for the RNC chairman to shrug his shoulders and say, "Who, us?"

digby: I Know You Are But What Am I?

This just gets better and better:

On today’s call with reporters, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele took credit for the RNC’s response to a new Democratic National Committee ad asking voters to call Republicans and tell them to stop ginning up town hall heckling. The RNC redirected these calls from its main switchboard over to the DNC’s switchboard — a response, said Steele, to the White House arrogantly blaming regular Americans “like my mother, like my sister” for the health care impasse.

“I thought it was a good idea,” Steele said. “Don’t sit there and think you’re going to direct a bunch of angry liberals to call the RNC when I know full well what that’s all about. I get the joke. My response was, talk to your own party, because they’re the ones ginning this up.”
These junior high school delinquents have proven once again that they have no place in deciding important issues for the American people. They are great political theatre and masterful pranksters, but it's irresponsible for anyone to let them near policy that affects people's lives. They are circus clowns.
Yglesias on The Guns of August

Jon Cohn says he’s “been obsessing over the lack of passion and organization on the left,” though now feeling slightly better. I agree, but it is worth saying that this is almost 100 percent the fault of Max Baucus.

There’s a reason, after all, why the President wanted the process to be much further along at this point. And I think a big part of that reason is that it’d be much easier to get people engaged and mobilized if there was a thing “the health care bill” that people were supposed to be getting engaged and mobilized about. By contrast, those most full of passionate intensity on the other side are basically prepared to oppose reform sight unseen. But without knowing much about what the content of “reform” is or who it is who’s backing “reform” it’s hard to know what to say about it. At the moment, progressives are simultaneously trying to impact the shape of “reform” (reasonable public option, reasonably generous subsidies and minimum benefits packages) while also trying to push for “reform” to win out against the opponents of “reform.” If the various congressional leaders ever work out what “reform” is, then no matter how disappointed folks may be with some aspects of it, I’m pretty sure just about everyone will find themselves pushing for it.

But by dragging out the process of defining what the proposal is this long, congress in general—but mostly Baucus in particular—have guaranteed a sort of asymmetrical summer.

Benen: GAME ON?...
There are a lot of things missing from the right-wing mob protests against health care reform -- honesty, civility, class, intellectual seriousness -- but one of the key unseen elements is a counterweight. We're hearing quite a bit from a mobilized, confused, and enraged minority, but the majority isn't stepping up.

Jonathan Cohn had a good item on this the other day: "Don't Whine. Organize."

...[P]rogressives need to get their act together -- to start creating a push for reform that can meet, and overwhelm, the push against. The proliferation of these right-wing demonstrations only makes this more urgent, as others (including Josh) have been arguing. Nobody is suggesting progressives should adopt the tactics of right-wingers and start shutting down discussions. But progressives need to show themselves in large numbers, to make their voices heard.

Progressives also have to start playing offense as well as defense.

I get the sense that idea is starting to catch on in larger numbers. Greg Sargent reports this afternoon, "For the first time, Obama's formidable political operation, Organizing for America, is calling on supporters to go to town meetings and show support for Congressional Democrats, as a way of countering the Tea Party brigade's efforts to lay siege to such gatherings."

OFA is also reportedly organizing calls to lawmakers "to prove to members that there's more support out there for health care reform than rowdy town hall attendees would like you to think."

What's more, the AFL-CIO is on the case: "The nation's largest federation of labor organizations has promised to directly engage with boisterous conservative protesters at Democratic town halls during the August recess." A memo sent out by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney explains that the town-hall meetings have become the "principal battleground" for reform, and cites the "hooligans" who disrupted the vote count in Florida as an example of what reform supporters are up against. Sweeney called for "major union participation" to go up against the right-wing activists.

Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is also distributing a new strategy document that "outlines the various ways reformers and activists can respond when town hall events with members of Congress are interrupted."

The battle is (finally) joined?
Think Progress: Poll: Plurality of Republicans want more media coverage of President Obama’s birth certificate.

Last week, a DailyKos/Research2000 poll found that 58 percent of Republicans sympathize with the far-right birthers as 28 percent don’t believe that President Obama was born in the U.S. and another 30 percent aren’t sure. Now, a new poll from the Pew Research Center has found that “a plurality, 39 percent, of self-identified Republicans” believe that there has been “too little” coverage of “allegations that President Obama was not born in the United States”:


Michael Dimock, an associate director at the Pew Research Center, told the Washington Independent’s Dave Weigel that Pew’s finding “goes back to what we tracked last year, when we consistently found that 10 or 11 percent of Americans believed that he was Muslim.” “There is a core group of Americans who have never been comfortable with Barack Obama. A story like this sort of resonates with these folks. Oh! Maybe he isn’t one of us,” said Dimock.

1 comment:

  1. We first heard from the birthers, with their fake “birth certificate” in hand and with their fake outrage. These are the same under tones that you saw from Republicans during the confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor, "you are not like us" or "you are too different", “you are not main stream”. And then they act surprised when people do not vote with them, they are lost, no core beliefs, too bad.

    In my opinion the Republican Party has been taken over the most extreme religious right (people who love to push their beliefs on others while at the same time trying to take away their rights) and that’s who they need to focus on if they real want to win. Good Luck, because as they said in WACO, “We Ain’t Coming Out”.

    It’s funny we hear Republicans say that they do not want “faceless bureaucrats” making medical decisions but they have no problem with “private sector” “faceless bureaucrats” daily declining medical coverage and financially ruining good hard working people. And who says that the “private sector” is always right, do we forget failures like Long-Term Capital, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Enron, Tyco, AIG and Lehman Brothers. Of course the federal government will destroy heathcare by getting involved, Oh but wait our military men and women and the Senate and Congress get the best heathcare in the world, and oh, that’s right, its run by our federal government. I can understand why some may think that the federal government will fail, if you look at the past eight years as a current history, with failures like the financial meltdown, Katrina, and the Walter Reed Scandal but the facts is they can and if we support them they will succeed.