Monday, September 21, 2009

Bad Form, a pile of oranges & the letter "U"

Michael SchererMore Bad Republican Form
About a month ago, a Republican National Committee mailer surfaced, showing that the party had sent out a bogus "poll." The poll asked recipients if they were concerned that Democrats would pass health care reform that would deny Republicans treatment because they were Republicans. This ridiculous and false notion, the mailer said, "has been suggested" by unknown forces. When I called the RNC for comment, a spokesman admitted the shameless ploy had been "inartfully worded."
Now comes word, via Sam Stein at Huffington Post, that the National Republican Senatorial Committee is trying to fool Americans with the same trick. Their bogus "poll" asks:
Are you concerned that health care rationing could lead to:
23. Denial of treatment in cases where the patient's prospects are deemed not good?
24. A "lottery" system of determining who will get priority treatment?
25. A "quota" system which would determine who would determine who would get treatment on the basis of race or age?
Needless to say, none of these things have been proposed in either house of Congress. None of them will pass. The mailer also suggests that the following ideas are "up for debate" in Congress over the coming weeks, including whether or not the government gets to:
• Pick who is "eligible" for certain medical procedures? • Pick your doctor for you? • Restrict certain medical procedures on the basis of age? • Put strict price controls on medicine and drugs? • Penalize you for choosing to see a private doctor • Seriously undermine private health care insurers who currently serve tens of millions of Americans?
In a just, fully functioning Democratic debate, there would be consequences for such fearmongering by a major political party. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who signs the direct mail piece, would actually be forced to either defend the document, by backing up the claims with actual evidence that these claims are in any way relevant to the current discussion, or he would be discredited as someone willing to fool people--not to mention the elderly--for political advantage.
But this is not a fully functioning Democratic system. I have nonetheless, asked the NRSC for comment. I am told I will get a response, which I will post promptly.
UPDATE: Brian Walsh a spokesman for the NRSC did call me back, and defended the mailer, not as a description of any of the Democratic plans, but rather as an open-ended musing on possible health care reform ideas. "It simply poses questions," said Walsh. "In looking at it, it doesn't say definitely what the president's health care plan is." Walsh added that no one knows what the final Obama health care legislation might contain. "He has not put forward legislative text," he said. "We have no idea what the Democratic bill is going to look like."
So in other words, Walsh is maintaining that the most alarming parts of the faux poll do not describe anything that Democrats or Obama has proposed, but rather describe things that could still be proposed at some point in the future to surprise everybody. Needless to say, it is rather unlikely--call it completely inconceivable--that Obama or Democratic leaders would introduce an 11th-hour amendment to deny health care to Americans based on race. What may be more interesting is the tactic at play. This is another version of a "The Great Unknown" attack on Obama, a technique I have previously described, in which opponents choose to critique Obama not for what he is doing, but for what is unknown about his actions or what he might do.
  •  Bobcn in the comments:

    Since these ideas were invented by the republicans, and since no one else at all has suggested any of these ideas except the republicans, shouldn't these ideas be properly described from now on as the 'Republican health care ideas'?
    o Republican health care idea # 1: To deny of treatment in cases where the patient's prospects are deemed not good.
    o Republican health care idea # 2: A "lottery" system of determining who will get priority treatment.
    o Republican health care idea # 3: A "quota" system which would determine who would determine who would get treatment on the basis of race or age.
    I'm not suggesting that the republicans plan to offer legislation to implement their new health care ideas, but then I'm not suggesting that they won't either. After all, they did do polling to determine how the public would react to their new health care ideas. I'm just saying...

 Sully: Neoconservatism And Debt
Yglesias pairs this chart with this quote by Irving Kristol:
Among the core social scientists around The Public Interest there were no economists…. This explains my own rather cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or fiscal problems. The task, as I saw it, was to create a new majority, which evidently would mean a conservative majority, which came to mean, in turn, a Republican majority – so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government…
In this respect, neoconservatism has always maintained a Trotskyite bent. Sifting of empirical data - how it began - soon shifted under the Kristols' cynical maneuvering into Rovian politics. The core conservative impulse to balance budgets and only add debt in emergencies was inverted into neoconservatism's cynical fiscal vandalism. The real conservative in this was Clinton; and Olympia Snowe-style conservatism is now best represented by the Democrats. Yglesias adds:
The presence of a major ideological movement in the United States of America dedicated to the dual propositions that taxes must never go up, and that government expenditures don’t need to relate to government revenue in any real way as long as the Republican Party is in charge simply makes it almost impossible for the country to be governed in a responsible manner. If we had a different political system, it’s possible that such an ideological movement would marginalize itself, lose elections, and the other guys would run the show responsibly. Maybe. You could at least imagine it happening. But in our system even a defeated minority gets a ton of influence over policy and becoming completely dogmatic and irrational actually enhances that level of influence.
C&LDavid Brooks: The problem for Republicans is that race-baiters like Limbaugh and Beck own them
It was somewhat gratifying to see Chris Matthews' right-leaning panel on his Sunday show -- which was, as expected, eager to deny the role of racism in the ugly animus that's been directed at Barack Obama -- at least admit the truth:
David Brooks: What Rush and Glenn Beck are doing is race-baiting. 100 percent. That's race-baiting.
Kathleen Parker: What Rush Limbaugh and Beck did in those two clips is to empower racists.
But it was even more interesting to watch Brooks in particular somehow manage to stumble upon the core of the problem:
Matthews: Would the White House like the leaders of both parties to say, 'Cool it'?
Brooks: Well, I think they would. First, I think Father Coughlin was objecting to FDR, and he -- that's what we're seeing, Father Coughlin, that's what these guys are --
Matthews: And he was far right.
Brooks: He was far right. The White House understands, you've got 10 percent of the country over here on the wacky right, 10 percent on the wacky left, that's not what they can pay attention to. And they're not going to pay attention to it. They're sticking with the independents -- that's what the health care, why it's tending toward the center.
The one danger -- the main danger of all this, the Glenn and the Rush and all that -- they're not going to take over the country. But they are taking over the Republican Party.

And so if the Republican Party is sane, they will say no to these people. But every single elected leader in the Republican Party is afraid to take on Rush and Glenn Beck.
Brooks' percentages are off -- it's more like about 5 percent on the left and 30 percent on the right side, and this latter fact is actually what he identifies as the problem; the right has been so overwhelmed by its wingnutty elements that they have largely taken over the GOP at this juncture in time. And there's no prospect of the David Brookses ever getting it back -- in no small part because they refuse to acknowledge the magnitude of what they're up against.
But at least they recognize the problem. That's a start.
 Think Progress: Rhode Island GOP assemblyman quits party following embarrassment of Wilson’s ‘you lie’ screed.
Ivan Marte, the ex-chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Hispanic Assembly, has announced that he’s quitting the Republican Party because he was embarrassed by Rep. Joe Wilson’s “you lie” outburst at President Obama:
“I do not want to continue being a member of a party in which the members of the party express themselves in that way,” said Marte, 59, of Cranston. In a phone interview, he called Wilson’s behavior “shameful” and “uncivilized.”
But Marte said Wilson’s outburst was the last straw in a series of disappointments that led him to break with his party.
In a letter to GOP chairman Giovanni Cicione, Marte wrote, “I do hope that my resignation served as a sign, that the Republican Party in this Nation need to reevaluate their position” on reaching out to minority groups.
 John Cole to RW Blogger Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs: It Isn’t An Ideology, Charles 
It is a cult. Consider yourself lucky. You made it out alive.
  •  Johnson at LGF: So Long, Powerline 

    Since the people at Powerline have made a big public announcement about it, I’ll just say that I’m not the least surprised that they’ve delinked LGF. Powerline has been going in a very bad direction recently; the “all Obama-hatred, all the time” focus is bad enough, but worse are their articles supporting European extremists like Geert Wilders (who wants to deprive Muslims of the freedom of religion and ban books) and outright fascists like the Belgian Vlaams Belang party.
    I’ve been considering removing them from my links for quite some time because of this kind of disturbing stuff, but I was foolish enough to believe they might come to their senses. I’ve written emails to them about it (which weren’t returned), and I wrote a post laying out my case, that they completely ignored. Clearly, this is a direction they’ve chosen, so I’ve removed all links to Powerline from LGF.
    So long, and thanks for all the fish.
    • from the comments to Cole's post at Ballon Juice: 


      Yeah, this isn’t Charles Johnson’s first disagreement with conservatives. For example. As far as I can tell his policy preferences are just as nutty
      right-wing as ever despite the example of the past few years, but he differs with Republicans about the value and/or ethicality of birtherism, conspiracy theories, racism, and going so far as to ban Islam.
      It’s funny to think about people too crazy for Charles Johnson. Sort of scary and reassuring at the same time, if that makes any sense. Scary that they’re out there, and that there are so many of them and they’re cooperating, but reassuring that Johnson could, in the end, get co-opted by consensus reality.
      joe from Lowell

      Movement-conservative ideology is like  at the grocery store.
      Once you recognize the dishonesty, the cluelessness, and the irrationality behind one plank, you can’t help but see those same failures behind everything they do.
      It’s like pulling out one of the oranges at the bottom. Charles may think he’s just de-linking some extremists, but he’s going to end up like John within a year.

 Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) of Texas recently wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post characterizing White House "czars" as an outrageous and unconstitutional abuse. It was filled with errors of fact and judgment, including the notion that having 32 "czars" is "unprecedented" (Bush had 36).
But of particular interest was Hutchison's argument that White House "czars ... hold unknown levels of power over broad swaths of policy," which makes their offices constitutionally dubious.
Over the weekend, David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, veterans of the Reagan and H.W. Bush Justice Departments, explained that Hutchison is flat wrong.
The White House czars are presidential assistants charged with responsibility for given policy areas. As such, they are among the president's closest advisers. In many respects, they are equivalent to the personal staff of a member of Congress. To subject the qualifications of such assistants to congressional scrutiny -- the regular confirmation process -- would trench upon the president's inherent right, as the head of an independent and equal branch of the federal government, to seek advice and counsel where he sees fit. [...]
Historically, presidents have turned to special advisers. However much the czars may drive the policymaking process at the White House, they cannot -- despite their grandiose (and frankly ridiculous) appellation -- determine what that policy will be.
Right. The powers of "czars" over "broad swaths of policy" is not "unknown" -- it's practically non-existent.
Carol Browner, for example, is the director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy. Some have decided to call her the "Energy and Environment Czar," whatever that means. Browner, in reality, is a top advisor to the president on environmental policy, but her power rests in her ability to influence her boss and officials -- her office cannot make, shape, or dictate policy. Browner has no regulatory and/or legal authority.
This is true of practically all "czars." The exceptions -- notwithstanding the difficulty of knowing who counts as a "czar" and who doesn't, since the title doesn't literally exist -- are congressionally created offices, led by officials whose powers, again, are not "unknown," but rather, dictated by statute.
In effect, we're dealing with a "controversy" over the president assembling a team of specialized-but-powerless policy advisors. If we were to rank the manufactured outrages of the last eight months, this would have to be among the dumbest.
Douthat may never live this column down ...
Blue Texan (FDL): Ross Douthat: George W. Bush was a “Good” President
I never thought I'd write this, but I'm starting to miss Bill Kristol.
It’s true that Bush didn’t personally formulate the surge, or craft the bailout. But he was, well, the decider, and if he takes the blame — rightly — for what Donald Rumsfeld wrought, then he should get credit for Gen. David Petraeus’s successes in Iraq, and for blessing the sweeping decisions that Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke made in last September’s desperate weeks.
This is not a blueprint that future presidents will want to follow. But the next time an Oval Office occupant sees his popularity dissolve and his ambitions turn to dust, he can take comfort from Bush’s example. It suggests that it’s possible to become a good president even — or especially — when you can no longer hope to be a great one.
Put another way, if I get totally wasted on smack, pass out on the couch with a lit cigarette and set the house on fire, but am shaken out of my drug-induced stupor by the billowing smoke in time for me to pull one of my children out of the conflagration -- that makes me a "good" parent not a "great" one.
Some sliding scale! And I thought conservatives opposed affirmative action.
Put another way:
George W. Bush's last minute extra credit work pulled his GPA up to a solid D-. Pass!
Or another:
Yeah, OK, so Bush fucked up everything he touched, but at least he had the good sense to scramble around at the very last minute while spending lots of lives and money to avert a complete zombies-roaming-the-streets type of disaster. In conclusion, Bush was a good president.
One wonders how much longer the Times will expose itself to this kind of ridicule.
Think Progress: Hatch Amendment Raises Excise Tax Threshold “For Any State With A Name That Begins With The Letter ‘U’”
Members of the Senate Finance committee have submitted 534 amendments to Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-MT) health care mark. Democrats introduced several amendments, including provisions re-instating the public insurance option, striking the network of consumer-driven cooperatives, expanding Medicare to Americans aged 54 to 65, and improving affordability standards.
And while Republicans have proposed several compromise amendments, most of their provisions seek to delay the mark-up process and undermine the bill. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), for instance, introduced an amendment (Hatch F7) to “add transition relief for the excise tax on high cost insurance plans for any State with a name the begins with the letter ‘U.’” The amendment would increase the threshold at which high-cost insurance plans could be taxed.
Below are some of the other superfluous amendments introduced by Republicans:

Amendment/Sponsor Provision
Ensign 409 Transparency in Czars.
Hatch 511 Prohibits authorized or appropriated federal funds under the Mark from being distributed to or used by ACORN.
Ensign 543 Strike the word “fee” everywhere it appears in the bill and replace with the word “tax.”
Roberts 137 To prevent Medicare payment policies which discourage physicians from fulfilling their Hippocratic Oath to maintain the good of their patients as their highest priority, and instead encourage the rationing of health care.
Roberts 144 To ensure that if people like the hometown hospital they have, they can keep it.
Hatch rationalizes his amendment by explaining that “the transition relief provided in the Chairman’s mark for the 17 states with the least affordable health care is obviously arbitrary and unfair. What about the 18th state? This amendment would add further transition relief in another, but no less arbitrary way to certain states.”

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