Saturday, August 29, 2009

What digby said . . .

Digby: Taste
Mike Huckabee has always had a really nasty streak, but I think he may have outdone himself with this one.

The 2008 Republican presidential candidate suggested during his radio show, "The Huckabee Report," on Thursday that, under President Obama's health care plan, Kennedy would have been told to "go home to take pain pills and die" during his last year of life.

"[I]t was President Obama himself who suggested that seniors who don't have as long to live might want to consider just taking a pain pill instead of getting an expensive operation to cure them," said Huckabee. "Yet when Sen. Kennedy was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at 77, did he give up on life and go home to take pain pills and die? Of course not. He freely did what most of us would do. He choose an expensive operation and painful follow up treatments. He saw his work as vitally important and so he fought for every minute he could stay on this earth doing it. He would be a very fortunate man if his heroic last few months were what future generations remember him most for."

As it happens, Huckabee made his remarks shortly after he derided Democrats for using Kennedy's death to make the pitch that "Congress must hurry and pass the health care reform bill and do it in his memory,"

"That not only defies good taste," said Huckabee, "it defies logic."
You'll note that Huckabee said "he freely did what most of us would do, he chose an expensive operation." "Most of us" must be referring to those who are lucky enough to have insurance like Kennedy had --- paid for by the government and among a huge choice of policies --- because "many of us" would have to fight our insurance companies to get that "expensive" treatment or would face bankruptcy. That's if "we" were lucky enough to have insurance at all.

Huckabee has properly defined the problem but he doesn't seem to realize that it's the problem with the current system, not the proposed one. It's an excellent way to confuse people, of course, if you're trying to scare them, but it's a bit rich to speak of logic in the same breath.

And to evoke "good taste" in the same moment you are lying through your teeth with an outrageous claim that President Obama said seniors should consider going home and taking pain pills instead of getting an operation is just plain sickening and in a perfect world would disqualify him from ever holding public office again.
Digby: Rolling Redux
I think it's time for a repeat of what Rick Perlstein wrote to me just before Senator Kennedy died this week:

The Republican old bulls will say they're honoring EMK's memory by voting against cloture for what they'll say is a failed bill that he would never have happened had he been alive and kicking... It's how they roll.

What Perlstein understands about the right wing, that nobody else ever seems to get, is that they always take the left's icons and use them for their own ends. Reagan used to famously quote Roosevelt as a great example of conservative values. And just as John Kennedy and Martin Luther King have been recently appropriated by conservatives, we can expect Ted Kennedy to be transitioned from history's most hated liberal into the Great Compromiser, who knew how to "make the right concessions." They're really good at this stuff.

There is another part to this, however, as we are seeing right now. The media villagers, who automatically assume that anyone who is beloved by the people is someone who reflects their own values (it's all about them) are saying that Kennedy always compromised because he was committed to bipartisanship as a governing principle.

He wasn't, of course. That's completely absurd. He was committed to liberal goals, which he advanced at every opportunity. Under conservative reign he got his foot in the door, eked out whatever advances were possible get and stopped the Republicans from their worst if he could. But in a moment of liberal opportunity he would never have compromised simply out of silly beltway convention, particularly on a signature issue like health care. He would have used every lever of power at his disposal to get it done.

As far as Kennedy being a great example of their beloved village consensus, everyone loving each other even as they played out some sort of ideological kabuki, maybe they need to take a step back from the unctuous paeans of the conservative marketers and remind themselves of what the conservatives really thought of him. That's the most intellectually honest piece about Kennedy I've read from a conservative since he died.
Digby: Renewed Faith
I have,sadly, become something of a cynic in my old age and it's not a happy thing to be. The world is darker, inspiration harder to find and humans are constantly disappointing me. But today, my faith in the goodness of human nature was renewed.

Howie Klein asked John Amato and I to an event last night at the Grammy Museum, which is in downtown LA near the Staples center and the convention center. It was a fabulous Q&A and concert with the great Jazz trumpet player Terrance Blanchard and his band. Unfortunately, when I got back in my car after the event I found that my wallet was missing. This venue is huge, tens of thousands of people are there at any given time from all over the area and all over the world. Whether stolen or lost, I had no hope that I would ever see it again. Just another night in the Naked City. I felt very down.

This morning I got a call from the Santa Monica Police telling me that a good Samaritan had found my wallet and they had called the police to tell them they would like to return it. (My phone number wasn't in it.) I was stunned. And I also felt a little bit elated. It's been a while since something surprised me in quite this way. (That cynicism again.) So I happily took the Good Samaritan's number and called him.

This man's name is Kurt Thompson, and he works for an aerospace supplier in Gardena, a few miles south from where I live. He told me that his employee Albert Garcia had found the wallet last night, brought it to work and asked his boss to help him track me down so he could return it. They spent the morning trying to figure out a way to get my number when they finally decided that the best route would be to call the police and see if they could get it to me. I was thrilled and immediately agreed to drive down and pick it up.

When I arrived, Kurt took me on a tour of the plant (they make some kind of special bolt for Boeing aircraft) and showed me what my credit cards and ID all look like under the blacklight, which is the way the authorities determine if they are authentic. Then he took me to meet Albert, a handsome young guy who looks to be in his early 20s.(He might be older, but he looks young.)

Anyway, I thanked Albert profusely and offered him a reward --- which he refused to accept under any circumstances. And again, I was surprised. I was happy to give it to him, the reward was well deserved and his returning my wallet saved me hours of trouble and money having to replace both my passport (don't ask) and my driver's license, not to mention the hell of dealing with credit cards and all the rest. His abject refusal to accept any money was unexpected and I was even more impressed. I just assumed that he would take it. Another chip of my hard cold cynicism broke off.

I spent a few more minutes chatting with Kurt, a very upbeat, friendly person with a huge smile and a contagious good humor and I discovered that he is mentoring Albert, helping him through school and guiding him in the workplace. (Albert, of course could have kept the wallet and never told Kurt about it, so Albert's moral compass is all his own.) Kurt is a very good person.

And I also discovered that Kurt is a Republican. (He has a mixed marriage - his wife is a Democrat.) We chatted a bit about travels, music, the thrill of Obama's election, the disillusionment of the Bush voter, the need for critical thinking, and then I took my leave. And I felt uplifted and happy in a way that I haven't felt in some time. It's not about the wallet which, after all, can be replaced. It's that I felt good about human beings again.

The burden of cynicism wears me down --- I don't like to believe that people are fundamentally dishonest and cruel. I needed this blast of decency from total strangers to shake me out of my doldrums. So, I'm immensely grateful to Kurt and Albert, both for renewing my faith in human nature and reminding me that political affiliation doesn't tell the whole story about anyone. It was a privilege to meet both of them.

Saturday Morning Potpourri

Aravosis: AP: GOP Hints Dems Would Deny Republicans Health Care
Any day now the Democrats and the White House are going to stand up, bare their teeth, show some backbone, and put an end to this. Yep. Any day now. Just one more slight... or maybe a few more slights... and Democrats are finally going to have had enough, and they're gonna stand up, walk right up to Republicans, poke their finger in the GOP's collective chest, and politely ask Republicans if they might consider toning down a few of the lies, just a bit, maybe in exchange for turning 40% of the health care bill into tax cuts.

This is the way you are treated when you don't just show weakness, but ooze it from your pores.
Aravosis: Sam Stein: Race-Based Protests Directed At Obama Continue To Rise

From Sam Stein at Huff Post:

Race-based attacks and criticism of President Obama have been on the rise during the dog days of August. And they're not just happening at health care town hall protests.

A reader sent over a picture of a group of protesters camped outside Rep. Susan Davis's (D-Calif.). "Neighborhood Day" event this past week, brandishing signs calling the president a Black Supremacist and suggesting he's a Nazi disciple.
What's most disturbing is that these people are no longer the wacky fringe. They're the mainstay, the base, of the GOP. A decade ago Republicans had only the religious right's wackiness to deal with. Now they have conspiracy nuts and outright racists regularly representing them at political events, and Republican members of Congress inciting, and embracing, the violent nuts.

What's truly shocking is that Republicans are still comparing our president to Hitler, and no one on the left has yet figured out how to capitalize on this. How many times do you think we'd have gotten away with comparing George Bush to Hitler? In fact, the answer is: Zero. MoveOn was perpetually blamed for comparing Bush to Hitler, when in fact MoveOn did nothing of the kind. The Republicans wanted to scare MoveOn, and more importantly, hurt MoveOn's brand among Democrats. And to some degree it worked. And what do Democrats do when Republicans actually, repeatedly, compare our president to Hitler?

For a while, so many conservative activists were convinced that Medicare isn't a government program that Tim Noah was able to start tracking it as a genuine meme. It was indicative of a discourse gone insane -- confused opponents of health care reform were sincerely, literally arguing, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare."

Is Social Security next? Consider this anecdote from Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R) town-hall meeting in Lake Elmo, Minn., last night. (via Matt Corley)

At times tempers flared at the forum, with constituents shouting at one another.

LeRoy Schaffer, a St. Francis city council member, dressed in a tuxedo and top hat for the occasion. Shaffer got visibly emotional asking Bachmann about the future of health care and the role of special interests in Washington.

"I'll be danged if I am going to give up my Social Security because of socialism," Schaffer said, before being booed by the crowd.

Well, at least he was booed.

Update: Looks like the Roll Call report didn't include the relevant context. LeRoy Schaffer is actually a supporter of government safety-net programs. He said before the event, "I'm on Social Security and I've got Medicare. I have socialized medicine. I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world."

I suppose he was booed, then, because he's in favor of Social Security?

DougJ: Notes from the fear chamber

I don’t know how Steve Benen has the stomach to watch this stuff, but I’m grateful for the summaries:

Yesterday was especially astounding. He argued on the air, for example, that President Obama intends to create a “civilian national security force,” which will be similar to Hitler’s SS and Saddam Hussein. Apparently, this has something to do with AmeriCorps, which Beck initially said has a $500 billion budget. (He corrected himself later in the show, though his guest didn’t blink when he originally made the claim.)

Towards the end of the show, after scrawling on a variety of boards and pieces of paper, Beck summarized his key observation. On a chalkboard, Beck had written the words, “Obama,” “Left Internationalist,” “Graft,” “ACORN Style Organizations,” “Revolution,” and “Hidden Agenda.” If you circle some of the first letters of these important words, Beck says, it spells “OLIGARH.” Beck told his viewers there’s only one letter missing. If you’re thinking that letter is “c,” you’re not medicated enough to understand Beck’s show.

The missing letter is “y,” because the word he hoped to spell is “OLIGARHY.”

I thought it might amuse you to read some of this transcript from Mark Halperin’s appearance on Beck’s old HLN show in 2006:

MARK HALPERIN, AUTHOR, “WAY TO WIN”: Glenn, first of all, mega dittos. Just need you to know, I`m not doing this segment on my meds, so watch out.


HALPERIN: No. Glenn, you and I are in what we call rare agreement. And I think the important thing, when somebody like Michael J. Fox offers to make an ad or asks to make an ad, or Cindy Sheehan says I want to go down to Crawford, Texas, they better have somebody in there like telling them, “You`re entering the arena. Strap on the armor.” Because our politics is tougher today than it`s ever been. And people have to be challenged on their ideas.

People have to be challenged on their ideas.

Bring on the apocalypse.

On CNN yesterday afternoon, reflecting on Ted Kennedy's legacy as one of the giants of the U.S. Senate, Wolf Blitzer pondered who might someday emerge as a legislative leader with Kennedy's stature and success.

"A lot of people think it might be someone else who sought the presidency, lost and decided, 'You know what, my life's work will now be a senator' and that is Senator McCain, who has been a very good friend to Senator Kennedy," Blitzer said. "We'll see if that becomes the passion that became the passion of Senator Kennedy after he lost to Jimmy Carter in that Democratic presidential nomination back in 1980."

What's more, as Faiz Shakir noted, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cynthia Tucker also argued yesterday, "John McCain could be the Senate's new Ted Kennedy." Tucker said McCain, since last year's election, "has bowed to the harsh nihilism that seems to be all that Republicans represent these days," but said "McCain's reputation for a principled bipartisanship was intact" last year.

I guess I was watching a different presidential campaign last year. As I recall, McCain spent the year lying, flip-flopping, running cheap and ugly ads, and choosing a crazy person as his running mate.

But in some ways, that these observations are even being made tells an important story. The political media establishment has long adored McCain. Many wondered, after McCain's offensive conduct on the campaign trail last year, whether that same political media establishment would welcome him back with open arms once the presidential race ended. The answer now seems obvious. McCain hasn't done anything to earn their love, but that apparently doesn't matter.

As for the comparison itself, Kennedy was among the most accomplished lawmakers in the history of the United States Senate. McCain has an impressive personal background, but very few accomplishments to his name. Kennedy was principled, brilliant, and knowledgeable. McCain is inconsistent, easily confused, and has no patience for details. Kennedy was widely admired and respected by those who worked with him. McCain is known for screaming at his colleagues, even Republicans, who dare to disagree with him.

We knew Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy was a friend of ours. John McCain is no Ted Kennedy.

Benen says: * Greg Sargent keeps making Stephen Hayes look foolish. Hayes, for reasons I don't understand, keeps coming back for more, and Greg keeps making Hayes look worse.

  • Sargent: Dick Cheney’s Stunt Double Does Another Pratfall

    Stephen Hayes, dutiful chronicler of Dick Cheney’s greatness, has now twice attacked yours truly for describing the enhanced interrogation techniques as “Bush/Cheney torture policies.”

    Hayes asks: “Why call the EITs `Bush/Cheney torture policies’ when they were conceived and executed by senior CIA officals?” Uh, Stephen? Here’s how Cheney described EITs in the statement from him that you posted:

    The activities of the CIA in carrying out the policies of the Bush Administration were directly responsible for defeating all efforts by al Qaeda to launch further mass casualty attacks against the United States.

    D’oh! Separately, Hayes now thinks he’s caught me in a big screw-up, and he’s stamping his feet for a correction. He points to my post accusing him of cherrypicking a passage in the 2004 CIA I.G. report while omitting that it said “it is difficult to identify why exactly” a key detainee volunteered more info. He says he addressed that in a previous post.

    Uh, Stephen? My point was that you cherrypicked from the report in the same post that accused me of cherrypicking. Dude, come on, this is reading comprehension 101. On the substance of this, Hayes is pushing many of his chips onto this passage from the report:

    Because of the litany of techniques used by different interrogators over a relatively short period of time, it is difficult to identify why exactly al Nashiri became more willing to provide information. However, following the use of EITs, he provided information about his most current operational planning and [redacted] as opposed to the historical information he provided before the use of EITs.

    Hayes claims that this proves EITs were effective. But for God’s sake, the report’s chapter assessing torture’s “effectiveness” just doesn’t explain whether the “litany of techniques used” were only EITs. And it doesn’t say what specific life-saving information was produced specifically by EITs, if any.

    I don’t know how to make this clearer. Cheney didn’t merely say torture was vaguely “effective.” He said these reports would put to rest the question of whether torture saved many, many lives. The following sources have now concluded that the reports don’t prove what Cheney claimed: The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC News, Newsweek, former Bush terror adviser Frances Townsend, and…the author of the I.G. report himself!

    Is there anything that can persuade Hayes to tilt his lance in the direction of those sources, rather than at this poor, beseiged blog? Please make it stop…

AP: Obama earns early praise for Katrina efforts

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama pledged to right the wrongs he said bogged down efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Seven months into the job, he's earning high praise from some unlikely places.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., says Obama's team has brought a more practical and flexible approach. Many local officials offer similar reviews. Even Doug O'Dell, former President George W. Bush's recovery coordinator, says the Obama administration's "new vision" appears to be turning things around.

Not too long ago, Jindal said in a telephone interview, Louisiana governors didn't have "very many positive things" to say about the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But Jindal said he had a lot of respect for the current FEMA chief, Craig Fugate, and his team. "There is a sense of momentum and a desire to get things done," the governor said.

Added O'Dell: "I think the results are self-evident."

The retired Marine general served what he calls a frustrating stint as Bush's recovery coordinator last year. "What people have said to me is that for whatever reason, problems that were insurmountable under previous leadership are getting resolved quickly," O'Dell said.

"And I really hate to say that because (the top FEMA leaders) in my time there were good, hardworking, earnest men, but they were also the victims of their own bureaucracy."

It's not that Obama has miraculously mended the Gulf Coast since Katrina struck on Aug. 29, 2005. The storm killed more than 1,600 people in Louisiana and Mississippi and caused more than $40 billion in property damage. Hurricane Rita followed nearly a month later, with billions of dollars in additional damage and at least 11 more deaths.

On the fourth anniversary of Katrina, many communities remain broken, littered with boarded-up houses and overgrown vacant lots. Hundreds of projects — including critical needs such as sewer lines, fire stations and a hospital — are entangled in the bureaucracy or federal-local disputes over who should pick up the tab.

Like Bush, Obama has critics who say he's not moving aggressively enough.

Chris Kromm, director of the Institute for Southern Studies, an advocacy group, said the coast is "still waiting for Washington to show leadership."

In many areas, such as long-term coastal rehabilitation and rebuilding levees, it's too early to determine whether Obama will live up to the many promises he made.

But on several fronts, there is evidence of progress.

Victor Ukpolo, chancellor of Southern University at New Orleans, said the administration has been able to "move mountains" for his school, virtually wiped out by Katrina and the breached levees.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has visited the campus twice and awarded $32 million to replace four buildings.

"It's really awesome," Ukpolo said. "There's been so much progress."

Tommy Longo, mayor of Waveland, Miss., said it got so bad toward the end of Bush's tenure that "you almost couldn't get them to return a phone call, and you certainly weren't going to get them to make any big decisions."

"It has been refreshing to be back working with people who are hungry and want to make a difference," said Longo, a Democrat. "Who knows, a few years from now, at the end of Obama's term it may be back to the same ol', same ol', but it is refreshing now."

Obama backed up his pledge to name an experienced FEMA administrator by appointing Fugate, a career emergency management professional from Florida. By contrast, Bush's director was Michael Brown, a lawyer who worked at the International Arabian Horse Association. He resigned after Katrina.

In half a year, Obama's team says it has cleared at least 75 projects that were in dispute, including libraries, schools and university buildings. The administration has relied on a new, independent arbitration panel, and assigned senior advisers to focus on the rebuilding.

The administration recently reversed a FEMA rule that barred communities from building fire stations and other critical projects in vulnerable areas. Local officials said the rule could have effectively killed off some places.

The Bush administration's flat-footed response to Katrina left a lasting stain on Bush's legacy, and the sluggish pace of the long-term recovery has drawn continued criticism.

Local officials and civic leaders long have complained about the changing cast of FEMA representatives who review project worksheets and demand repeated inspections or additional paperwork. In some cases, agency workers have subtracted costs that local officials thought were settled.

Along with battling red tape, community officials say FEMA often stubbornly refused to pay for work that should have qualified for federal aid.

Under Bush, FEMA frequently argued that local governments viewed the storms as a chance to get rundown buildings replaced with federal dollars. Delays also were blamed on disarray at the local and state levels, with some projects stalled until local officials could decide their own priorities or provide documentation to make their case.

Critics countered that some Bush officials seemed more concerned with preventing fraud than getting people back on their feet.

Jindal and Paul Rainwater, the governor's recovery coordinator who once stormed out of a meeting with Bush officials in frustration, said plenty of headaches remain. Overall, Jindal gives the Obama administration an "incomplete" because there is so much still to do. A glaring example is the shuttered, 20-story Charity Hospital, which served New Orleans' poor and uninsured. The state claims it is owed nearly $500 million to replace it.

Despite high-level pleas, FEMA has denied the claim under both administrations, saying Charity wasn't properly guarded against further decay after the storm. The agency has offered $150 million, the most it says it can do. The Obama administration rejected a request to replace the hospital using economic stimulus money.

Jindal and Rainwater said the previous administration often wouldn't recognize new information or acknowledge there were real disputes. Sometimes, Rainwater said, Bush officials seemed blind to the devastation around them and said they had to be good stewards of public money.

"They never recognized the enormity of what we're working through," Rainwater said. "We're not just trying to rebuild buildings here but entire communities."

"That's the difference" under Obama, Rainwater said. "It's the recognition. ... We're all able to sit down around the table."


Friday, August 28, 2009

A Health Care Lunchtime

Sargent: House Leadership Memo Urges Dems: Remember That Public Option Has Tons Of Support

In a sign that House Dem leaders remain committed to making a public option a part of health care reform, the leadership is urging members in a new polling memo to keep in mind that the public plan remains overwhelmingly popular despite weeks of attacks on it.

The memo — which will be distributed to members of Congress and others later this morning and was sent over by a leadership aide — is designed to arm Congressional Dems with ammo to beat back claims that the public option’s popularity has tanked.

“Coordinated attacks by Republicans and other opponents of health insurance reform have had little effect on the strong support for a public health insurance option,” the memo reads.

The memo, which comes as intra-Dem fighting over the public option is set to intensify, also sends a simple message to centrist Dems: The public wants this done. The memo, which you can read right here, reproduces much recent polling in a handy chart:

Three recent polls show overwhelming support for the public option, and the fourth poll, by Rasmussen, finds a large majority opposes a plan without one. The memo also stresses that the pulic plan gets much greater support when you offer respondents a “choice.”

The memo’s goal: To put some spine into individual members spooked by the relentless assault on reform and the chorus of punditry claiming that the public option will have to be nixed in order to get reform done.

Rewriting history Aug. 27: Msnbc's Rachel Maddow points out that contrary to what Republican revisionists are already trying to spin, Senator Ted Kennedy would not have crippled the health care bill with destructive compromises just to get the bill to pass. Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis joins to discuss Kennedy's unabashed liberalism.
Blue Texan: Early Morning Swim: Olbermann and O’Donnell Discuss Ted Kennedy and the Public Option
By: Blue Texan Friday August 28, 2009 5:00 am

If I hear one more Republican Senator lecture us about Ted's "bipartisanship"...:

Kennedy's Republican friends should not make that disingenuous argument in his lamented absence. Lest there be any doubt about what he truly wanted, his bill includes a robust public option along with all the insurance reforms and cost controls that the president has endorsed since this process began.

How would he have handled the intransigence and dishonesty of the Republican opposition? We know that he could shout as well as whisper — and that he could be partisan as well as bipartisan. He believed that the time for incremental changes had passed. He was ready to fight. The tragedy of his death is not only that he didn't see the triumph he had dreamed, but that he fell before he could lead the nation to that final victory. Now that victory will have to be won in his name.

It's time to get it done. And there's simply no excuses.

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R) of Texas has been one of the leading right-wing agitators against health care reform. It was a little odd, then, to see Armey accidentally tell The Economist that the public option may be a good idea.

"If you in fact freely choose to enroll in Medicare that's a wonderful gift, it's a charity, it's something I applaud. But when they force you in, that's tyranny."

The Economist added, "In arguing against the Democrats' plan, he says that Medicare is a form of tyranny, and that citizens should be able to choose to enroll in the program. This choice, between a public plan and private ones, is precisely what the Democrats propose in a public option."

Right. No one is proposing a public option that Americans would be "forced" into. That's why it's called an "option." It denotes something "optional." Eligible Americans would be able to choose whether to "opt" in or out. "Optional" and "mandatory," in the English language, are opposites.

And yet, this seems to come up all the time. Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the Blue Dog point-man on health care, said last week he would not vote for a plan that would "force government-run healthcare on anyone. Period." He added that the public plan would be "strictly ... an option." The fact that he had to make the not-so-bold declaration in the first place suggests he's been running into some folks who believe they would be forced into a public plan.

With that in mind, I have two suggestions going forward. First, reform proponents should probably start telling the public that even Dick Armey thinks the idea of a public option sounds like "a wonderful gift."

And second, Democrats should declare, publicly and loudly, that in response to popular demand, they've decided to make the public plan purely optional. Conservatives drive a hard bargain, but reform proponents are not above compromise. As this item, posted by Josh Marshall, put it, "I think Obama should use all the fictional friction points as bargaining chips. You want us to give up the tyranny of compulsory coverage? You win, Dick Armey. Will you support the bill now?"

You probably think I'm going out of my way to pick on Chuck Grassley. I'm not, but let's face it -- he deserves the criticism.

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa indicated Thursday he was no longer sure whether negotiators can reach a bipartisan deal in September, citing mounting public concern about excessive government spending and soaring federal deficits.

Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee which is attempting to draft a bipartisan health care measure, said in a telephone interview from Iowa with Kaiser Health News, that he was struck by the intensity of Iowans' criticism of the health care proposals and "fear" of excessive federal spending during several weeks of town hall meetings throughout his state.

Asked whether he thought the six Democratic and Republican negotiators on the committee would be able to cut a deal when Congress returns from its summer recess next month, Grassley replied: "If you asked me that on Aug. 6, I would have said yes, I think so, September. But you're asking me on Aug. 27 and you've got the impact of democracy in America. Everybody's showing up at town meetings.... If town meetings are going to mean anything, if democracy is going to mean anything, then you listen to your people and you act accordingly."

A few things. First, the folks who are "showing up at town meetings," ranting and raving about reform, are angry because they don't know what they're talking about. They've been filled with rage, lies, and paranoia. Killing a necessary reform bill to placate ridiculous cries from gullible people is politics at its most inane. Responsible lawmakers do the right thing, even when misguided mobs whine about it. Letting temper tantrums, motivated by stupidity, dictate public policy only encourages more stupid temper tantrums.

Second, Grassley has a confused sense of who "everybody" is. Grassley has 3 million constituents. Let's say, hypothetically, Grassley has heard angry right-wing screams from, say, 3,000 Iowans at town-hall events. That would mean the senator had heard strenuous opposition to reform from exactly 0.1% of his constituents. If he's heard far-right town-hall enmity from 30,000 Iowans -- a farfetched claim, to be sure -- that would still only be 1% of the people Grassley represents.

He's concerned about "democracy meaning something"? A clear majority of Americans -- and a clear majority of Iowans -- elected Barack Obama as president. His signature domestic issue was health care reform. "You listen to your people and you act accordingly."

Grassley doesn't give a damn about the deficit or screaming Teabaggers or government spending. He wants to kill health care reform. The only question now is whether congressional Democrats are prepared to help him with this goal.

BarbinMD: Michael Steele: "No one’s trying to scare people with soundbites"

Michael Steele is either delusional or a liar:

INSKEEP: Do you find it challenging to get into this complicated debate and explain things to people in a way that it’s honest to the facts and still very clear –

STEELE: That’s a good point.

INSKEEP: — and doesn’t just kind of scare people with soundbites?

STEELE: Well, no. Look. No one’s trying to scare people with soundbites. I have not done that, and I don’t know any leaders in the House and the Senate that have done that. So yeah, it’s complicated and you want to do that.

Death panels, death books, forced euthanasia, pull the plug on grandma, the list goes on and on. But no, Republicans aren't just trying to scare people with soundbites - they're lying through their teeth to scare people with soundbites.

Off topic, but very interesting . . .

Drum: Cash 4 Clunkers Wrapup
Joe Romm says that although the Cash for Clunkers program was never meant to be a cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions, in the end it turned out to be very effective indeed:

In the real world, the public has mostly turned in gas-guzzlers in exchange for fuel-efficient cars — which perhaps should not have been a total surprise since oil prices are rising, gas guzzlers remain a tough resell in the used car market, and most fuel-efficient cars are much cheaper than SUVs. So as a stimulus that saves oil while cutting CO2 for free — it has turned out to be a slam dunk, far better than I had expected.

....Let’s assume the new cars are driven nearly 20% more over the next 5 years [compared to the old cars they replace], and that the average price of gasoline over the next five years is $3.50. Then we’re “only” saving 140 million gallons a year or roughly $500 million a year. The $3 billion program “pays for itself” in oil savings in 6 years. And most of that oil savings is money that would have left the country, so it is a (small) secondary stimulus.

Using a rough estimate of 25 pounds of CO2 per gallon of gas (full lifecycle emissions), then we’re saving over 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 per year — and all of the ancillary urban air pollutants from those clunkers — for free.

I wouldn't make a habit out of supporting targeted industry programs like C4C, but it was wildly popular, provided a modest but noticeable amount of economic stimulus, and helps reduce U.S. oil consumption. Not bad for $3 billion.

C&L: Exclusive: The Rest Of That Barney Frank Town Hall Meeting With The Teabaggers

Anyone who is aware of all Internet traditions has by now seen the footage of Barney Frank taking down the Larouchie who asked him if he would support a "Nazi policy" by asking her, "On what planet do you spend most of your time?" But Rep. Frank was in rare form that night, standing up to the uninformed shrieking of the right and offering a real lesson in how to argue with conservatives. Rep. Frank's office provided C&L with the tapes of that town hall meeting in Dartmouth from last week, and I put together a sort of greatest hits reel.

Frank explains what deficit hawks should concern themselves with:

"I am struck by those who say, well, you don't care about the deficit. No, I do. I do care about the deficit. That's one of the reasons, not the only one, why I voted against the single most wasteful expenditure in the history of America. The Iraq war. If we hadn't gone to the war in Iraq, which I thought was a terrible mistake and voted against, we would have had more than enough money to pay for health care."

He argues with a "tenther" who thinks that Congress isn't authorized to provide health care for their citizens:

Frank: Do you think Medicare is unconstitutional, sir?

Teabagger: I think that Medicare needs to be reformed.

Frank: Do you think it's unconstitutional? You said that the Constitution doesn't give us the authority to do it, but Medicare was done. And, do you think Medicare is unconstitutional?

Teabagger: I think that Medicare needs to be reformed.

Frank: But you won't tell me whether you think it's unconstitutional, which you said--

Teabagger: I am not a Constitutional scholar-

Frank: Then why did you start off arguing about the Constitution?

That's really a fantastic exchange, where Frank digs an inch below the surface and finds nothing. He insists on having this questioner back up the rhetoric he cribbed off of Free Republic or wherever he got it, and the guy just couldn't do it.

And this is my favorite part:

Teabagger: Can you pledge to all of us here tonight, that if a new government single-payer system is instituted, that you will opt out of your Cadillac insurance?

Frank: Yes I am in favor of single payer, and that's why I like Medicare. (yelling) You act as if you people have discovered it is August. I have been a co-sponsor of the single payer bill, I think it would be better...

Teabagger #2: But we watch tapes of Obama and everyone else secretly say they're in favor of an eventual single pay system.

Frank: I haven't... sir, it's been 21 years since I've had a secret. (Laughter) And I don't have one now! You have discovered that I'm for single payer! I've been a sponsor of single payer for years!

What you see here is several things: 1) Rep. Frank is always in control; 2) he concedes nothing; 3) he allows his opponents to hang themselves with the outlandish logic of their own claims; 4) he knows when to throw in a well-timed bon mot. At one point, Frank says, "When you say things that people can't refute, they try to drown you out. That's understandable." That's someone who is confident in their beliefs. Democrats could learn something from that.

Coal's Pretend Friends

When no one likes you, just make up your own, imaginary friends. This is a terrific catch.
And it is what journalism is supposed to look like.
Coal industry caught faking supporters Aug. 27: Ms. Information: Rachel Maddow reports on some stories that didn't make the front page, including how one "grassroots" Web site is trying to pass off stock photography as pictures of actual supporters of the coal industry.

Health Care Friday: Economics 101 Edition

Apropos of, well, The Onion, and the national discussion generally.
Is Using A Minotaur To Gore Detainees A Form Of Torture?

Marshall (TPM):
Just Make It Simple

From TPM Reader BR ...

You're right that it makes no sense to not counter lies from Armey about the public option with "expanding Medicare access to those under 65" rhetoric.

What I don't understand is why nobody has talked about Kennedy's Medicare for All act, which is an elegant solution for just that - a public option in which folks can buy into Medicare.

The reasons this needs to be a big part of the public debate:

- This was Kennedy's last piece of unfinished life work. All those reporters who claim to know what Kennedy wanted are doing a disservice by not citing Kennedy's own legislation on the matter.

- Kennedy himself was personally pushing for a public option in the form of Medicare for All (this negates any claim that Kennedy would have not supported a public option).

- This is an example of what he would have wanted to pass (he reintroduced the bill, so it wasn't just some one-time idea of his).

- The bill was amazing in its simplicity, countering arguments that all health reform components are by nature arcane and indecipherable: every 5 years (every 2 years in another version) the eligibility for Medicare would be lowered by 10 years (and raised from below by 10 years), with those under 65 being asked to check a box on their taxes if they signed up for Medicare (to be charged for it). It's a simple model for the public option, and hard(er) to lie about.

- I believe David Waldman at Daily Kos was correct when he pointed out that it would make sense for the public option to be the "Kennedy plan"; irrespective of the politics, it would make sense because Kennedy's own bill was a public option bill, not a comprehensive reform package with 100 moving parts.

This is an idea whose time has come, and there ought to be robust public discussion about it.

  • From TPM Reader GM ..
    Dick Armey wants the public option to be optional? This gives me an idea. I think Obama should use all the fictional friction points as bargaining chips. You want us to give up the tyranny of compulsory coverage? You win, Dick Armey. Will you support the bill now? You disagree with death panels, Sarah Palin? What concession will you offer if we agree to give them up?
Yglesias: Grassley Claims Large Deficit Compels Him to Embrace Budget-Busting Status Quo

Senator Chuck Grassley continues to cast about for pretexts to spike health reform and please his party leadership so he’s hit upon an unusually nonsensical reason:

Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, one of three Senate Republicans negotiating on health care, said the soaring federal budget deficit “puts a stake in the heart” of $1 trillion measures being debated in Congress.

Obviously, the scope of the budget deficit in 2009 and 2010 has nothing to do with how the health care system ought to look in 2013 when the bills under consideration phase in. If the bills are affordable in 2013, then they’re affordable in 2013 regardless of current deficits. And if they’re not affordable, then small current deficits wouldn’t change that either. But more to the point, as the administration was emphasizing before Grassley’s “death panel” demogoguery helped scare them off the point, health care reform is integral to getting the long-run budget deficit under control:


Whatever you think of the current budget predictions, nothing about sticking with the status quo makes things better.

Benen: PART D....

At a recent town-hall event, President Obama was asked about how to pay for health care reform without adding to the debt. "It's a great question," the presidents said. "First of all, I said I won't sign a bill that adds to the deficit or the national debt. Okay? So this will have to be paid for."

Obama then proceeded to take a stroll down memory lane. "That, by the way, is in contrast to the prescription drug bill that was passed that cost hundreds of billions of dollars, by the previous administration and previous Congress, that was not paid for at all, and that was a major contributor to our current national debt. That's why you will forgive me if sometimes I chuckle a little bit when I hear all these folks saying, 'oh, big-spending Obama' -- when I'm proposing something that will be paid for and they signed into law something that wasn't, and they had no problem with it. Same people, same folks. And they say with a straight face how we've got to be fiscally responsible."

It's a point that's gone largely overlooked of late. Just six years ago, Karl Rove thought he could lock up that "permanent Republican majority" by adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. Seniors -- at least the one who didn't get caught in the dreaded "donut hole" -- would be so impressed they'd vote GOP forever. All Republican policymakers had to do was approve a poorly-written bill that expanded government involvement in health care while adding trillions of dollars to long-term debt.

It has a certain relevance to the ongoing policy debate of the day.

Matt Yglesias does good service by reminding us of the 2003 Senate vote on Medicare Part D, the budget-busting prescription drugs for seniors bill that passed the Senate 54-44, even though it wasn't paid for (it adds trillions to the deficit over time). Here's the vote: it is interesting to note that the two Gang of Six members who are the most prominent naysayers and budget hawks on the Senate Finance Committee now, Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi, voted for the bill. As did assorted other noisy conservatives like Sam Brownback, John Cornyn and John Kyl. What irresponsible spendthrifts!

Republicans who actually are deficit hawks -- John McCain (usually) and Lindsey Graham, for example -- voted against it. Many Democrats -- Ted Kennedy, Russ Feingold, Hillary Clinton -- also voted against it, mostly because they didn't think it provided sufficient coverage (and let the drug companies off the hook).

But the headline remain grousers like Grassley, who oppose the alleged expense of the Obama plan now (even though the President has vowed not to sign a bill that isn't, more or less, paid for). It should be noted that Max Baucus -- who has also made non-stop noises about fiscal responsibility -- voted for it, too.

The bill even included a provision on end-of-life counseling -- hey, look, GOP-approved "death panels" -- that the Tea Baggers of the day didn't seem to notice or care about. Indeed, at the time, conservative activists had nothing but good things to say about expanding an entitlement program by hundreds of billions of dollars, expanding the government's role in health care, and handing the tab to future generations. Where were the angry patriots comparing Bush to Hitler, and accusing Republican lawmakers of trying to turn the United States into Soviet Russia?

For that matter, somehow, Baucus and Grassley were on board with Bush's Medicare boondoggle, which included nothing to "bend the curve" and only added heavily to the debt. It's funny how standards change when there's a Democratic president.

Tom Tomorrow: American bankers: Fighting the good fight

This Modern World By Tom Tomorrow

Kurtz (TPM): Too Big To Fail -- And Growing


J.P. Morgan Chase, an amalgam of some of Wall Street's most storied institutions, now holds more than $1 of every $10 on deposit in this country. So does Bank of America, scarred by its acquisition of Merrill Lynch and partly government-owned as a result of the crisis, as does Wells Fargo, the biggest West Coast bank. Those three banks, plus government-rescued and -owned Citigroup, now issue one of every two mortgages and about two of every three credit cards, federal data show.

A year after the near-collapse of the financial system last September, the federal response has redefined how Americans get mortgages, student loans and other kinds of credit and has made a national spectacle of executive pay. But no consequence of the crisis alarms top regulators more than having banks that were already too big to fail grow even larger and more interconnected.

Krugman: Till Debt Does Its Part

So new budget projections show a cumulative deficit of $9 trillion over the next decade. According to many commentators, that’s a terrifying number, requiring drastic action — in particular, of course, canceling efforts to boost the economy and calling off health care reform.

The truth is more complicated and less frightening. Right now deficits are actually helping the economy. In fact, deficits here and in other major economies saved the world from a much deeper slump. The longer-term outlook is worrying, but it’s not catastrophic.

The only real reason for concern is political. The United States can deal with its debts if politicians of both parties are, in the end, willing to show at least a bit of maturity. Need I say more?

Let’s start with the effects of this year’s deficit.

There are two main reasons for the surge in red ink. First, the recession has led both to a sharp drop in tax receipts and to increased spending on unemployment insurance and other safety-net programs. Second, there have been large outlays on financial rescues. These are counted as part of the deficit, although the government is acquiring assets in the process and will eventually get at least part of its money back.

What this tells us is that right now it’s good to run a deficit. Consider what would have happened if the U.S. government and its counterparts around the world had tried to balance their budgets as they did in the early 1930s. It’s a scary thought. If governments had raised taxes or slashed spending in the face of the slump, if they had refused to rescue distressed financial institutions, we could all too easily have seen a full replay of the Great Depression.

As I said, deficits saved the world.

In fact, we would be better off if governments were willing to run even larger deficits over the next year or two. The official White House forecast shows a nation stuck in purgatory for a prolonged period, with high unemployment persisting for years. If that’s at all correct — and I fear that it will be — we should be doing more, not less, to support the economy.

But what about all that debt we’re incurring? That’s a bad thing, but it’s important to have some perspective. Economists normally assess the sustainability of debt by looking at the ratio of debt to G.D.P. And while $9 trillion is a huge sum, we also have a huge economy, which means that things aren’t as scary as you might think.

Here’s one way to look at it: We’re looking at a rise in the debt/G.D.P. ratio of about 40 percentage points. The real interest on that additional debt (you want to subtract off inflation) will probably be around 1 percent of G.D.P., or 5 percent of federal revenue. That doesn’t sound like an overwhelming burden.

Now, this assumes that the U.S. government’s credit will remain good so that it’s able to borrow at relatively low interest rates. So far, that’s still true. Despite the prospect of big deficits, the government is able to borrow money long term at an interest rate of less than 3.5 percent, which is low by historical standards. People making bets with real money don’t seem to be worried about U.S. solvency.

The numbers tell you why. According to the White House projections, by 2019, net federal debt will be around 70 percent of G.D.P. That’s not good, but it’s within a range that has historically proved manageable for advanced countries, even those with relatively weak governments. In the early 1990s, Belgium — which is deeply divided along linguistic lines — had a net debt of 118 percent of G.D.P., while Italy — which is, well, Italy — had a net debt of 114 percent of G.D.P. Neither faced a financial crisis.

So is there anything to worry about? Yes, but the dangers are political, not economic.

As I’ve said, those 10-year projections aren’t as bad as you may have heard. Over the really long term, however, the U.S. government will have big problems unless it makes some major changes. In particular, it has to rein in the growth of Medicare and Medicaid spending.

That shouldn’t be hard in the context of overall health care reform. After all, America spends far more on health care than other advanced countries, without better results, so we should be able to make our system more cost-efficient.

But that won’t happen, of course, if even the most modest attempts to improve the system are successfully demagogued — by conservatives! — as efforts to “pull the plug on grandma.”

So don’t fret about this year’s deficit; we actually need to run up federal debt right now and need to keep doing it until the economy is on a solid path to recovery. And the extra debt should be manageable. If we face a potential problem, it’s not because the economy can’t handle the extra debt. Instead, it’s the politics, stupid.
Think Progress: ‘Tenther’ Activists Add The Federal Highway System To List Of Programs To Kill
In a recent radio interview, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) made the seemingly-innocuous statement that the federal highway system, as well as federal laws ensuring safe drugs and safe airplanes, are constitutional. Nevertheless, Shea-Porter is now under attack by “tenther” activists who believe that virtually everything the federal government does is unconstitutional:

Author and historian David Barton, the president of WallBbuilders, [sic] says Shea-Porter’s comments reflect her view that Washington government should run everything. He notes that both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments say anything that is not explicitly covered in the Constitution belongs to the states and to the people.

“All of those issues belong to the states and the people. Healthcare is not a federal issue. It is a state and people issue — the same with transportation. The Constitution does say that the federal government can take care of what are called the post roads — those on which the mail travels — but outside of that, states are responsible for their own highways, their own roads, their own county, local, state roads,” he notes. “And her comment about, ‘Well, the Constitution doesn’t cover drug use and drug abuse’ — yes it does, and that is under the criminal justice issues that belong to the

As ThinkProgress previously reported, conservatives are increasingly enraptured with tentherism, which claims that landmark federal programs such as Medicare, Social Security, the VA health system and the G.I. Bill are violations of the 10th Amendment — and many leading conservative officials are determined to impose the tentherism on the country. Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) is a tenther, as are Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas embraces tenther claims that the federal minimum wage and the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters, among other things, are unconstitutional.

Indeed, even federal highways opponent Barton is no small figure in conservative politics; Barton is one of six “experts” tasked with rewriting Texas’ public school textbooks to teach a right-wing alternative history to Texan children. Apparently, Barton and his fellow tenthers also want to rewrite the Constitution.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wingnuts: Gollum Edition

The Republican National Committee has sent out a "2009 Future of American Health Survey." Question #4 reads:

"It has been suggested that the government could use voter registration to determine a person's political affiliation, prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system. Does this possibility concern you?"

Two quick thoughts. First, this is hopelessly insane.

Second, I was foolish enough to believe the RNC was incapable of surprising me. Live and learn.

  • digby adds:
    You can't dismiss this as fringe weirdos or "entertainment," can you? The official Republican Party is telling its members that Democrats may use voting registration information to identify and kill them.

    How long is everyone going to deny just how fucking crazy mainstream Republicanism has become? And when are people going to start asking seriously where this is headed?
The audio to this is priceless . . .
Let this be a lesson to all of us -- when major political parties are looking for a chairman or chairwoman, it's not a good idea to pick someone conspicuously unintelligent. It's an even worse idea to have that person pretend to understand the basics of public policy.

This week, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele argued that Medicare is a) a great government program that Democrats are trying to undermine and the GOP is trying to protect; and b) a terrible program that doesn't work and should probably be privatized. The shift happened within 24 hours.

Steele spoke to NPR's Steve Inskeep this morning, and the host tried to get a better understanding of what Steele is thinking. Amanda Terkel posted the audio and a transcript, which are both worth checking out. Steele isn't very bright, and he made a fool out of himself on the air.

It started when Steele endorsed increased government regulation of the private insurance market.

INSKEEP: Wait, wait -- you would trust the government to look into that?

STEELE: No, I'm talking about the private -- I'm talking about citizens. I'm talking about -- (CROSSTALK)

INSKEEP: Who is it you -- you said it is something that should be looked into. Who is it that you think should look into that?

STEELE: Well, who regulates the insurance markets?

INSKEEP: That would be the government, I believe.

STEELE: Well, and so what. Now wait a minute. Hold up. You're doing a wonderful little dance here and you're trying to be cute. But the reality of this is very simple. I'm not saying the government doesn't have a role to play. I've never said that. The government does have a role to play; it has a very limited role to play.

INSKEEP: Mr. Chairman, I respect that you think I'm doing a dance here. I just want you to know that as a citizen, I'm a little confused by the positions you take because you're giving me a very nice nuanced position here --

STEELE: It's not nice and nuanced. I'm being very clear.

As David Kurtz concluded, "Hard to believe this guy really is the head of a major American political party."

There were several candidates seeking the RNC chairmanship this year. The party chose the most ridiculous, least qualified, most confused one. That Steele reflects poorly on the party, its agenda, and its ability to be serious about public policy is a dramatic understatement.

  • David Kurtz adds:
    On Morning Edition today, Michael Steele gets tied in knots trying to explain how the GOP (or maybe just Steele himself?) wants to preserve Medicare against cuts, while also cutting Medicare and opposing government-run health care programs in general. It's an impossible dance for anyone, but Steele is burdened with two left feet.
  • John Cole adds:

    This rambling and incoherent interview with Michael Steele was almost Palinesque- the only thing missing was a couple “you betcha’s!”

    On display are all the contradictions, the lies, the spin, the confusion, and the chaos that is the Republican party. The party, as a whole, is like a congenital liar who has told so many lies and so many untruths that anything that comes out of their mouths contradicts what they said a moment and will contradict what they are going to say next.

    There’s a show on A&E called Crime 360, and basically every episode walks you through a case, from the investigation of the crime scene through the evidence analysis to the capture of a suspect to the interrogation. Sometimes the interrogations are pretty amazing- the suspect, when under pressure, will immediately start to directly contradict what he/she said three minutes earlier.

    That is what I think I am seeing every time I see most of the major Republicans on television. The only difference between any of them is who can most shamelessly lie (Gingrich, Palin, etc.) and those who very publicly trip over their own toes (Steele, Pence).

It's a bit like listening to Gollum talk about his precious ring. Bobby Jindal hates the recovery package; Bobby Jindal loves the recovery package. Mitch McConnell hates the recovery package; Mitch McConnell loves the recovery package. Eric Cantor hates the recovery package; Eric Cantor loves the recovery package.

There's a lot of this going around.

Georgia's Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, voted against the $787 billion economic stimulus package, blasting the bill as a bloated government giveaway.

But their disdain didn't stop them from later asking Defense Secretary Robert Gates to steer $50 million in stimulus money to a constituent's bio-energy project.

Gates didn't do it, but Chambliss, Isakson and other Republican opponents of the stimulus aren't going empty-handed.

Billions of dollars worth of Defense Department stimulus money is paying for repairs and construction at military installations in areas represented by lawmakers who said "no" to the legislation, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

The request from Chambliss and Isakson isn't the only one Gates and other top defense officials received before and after President Barack Obama signed the stimulus law in February. Their pitch stands out, though, because of the GOP's staunch opposition.

It's a familiar pattern. Republicans aggressively opposed the stimulus proposal earlier this year, insisting that it was a wasteful effort that couldn't possibly improve the economy (as opposed to, say, a five-year spending freeze, which would have worked wonders). Ever since, however, the same conservative lawmakers who trashed the recovery bill are the same conservative lawmakers who think the economy in their area could really use some of those recovery funds.

This started within a couple of weeks of the stimulus package passing, and it's only become more common since.

The DCCC has even come up with a "Hypocrisy Hall of Fame" for recovery critics who are "celebrating the benefits of President Obama's economic recovery bill in their districts."

The campaign committee probably ought to save room for a lot of inductees.

Think Progress: Republicans Who Opposed The Stimulus Line Up To Criticize It Publicly, Request More Money Privately

The AP reports that Republicans who opposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly referred to as the stimulus, are nonetheless vigorously pursuing money from the program. Many GOP members, like Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), are still slamming the stimulus as waste and a failure, yet at the same time are making internal appeals for more funds. Guthrie, attacked the Recovery Act for its “staggering” costs just days before he urged Defense Secretary Robert Gates to consider using stimulus money to renovate a military hospital in his congressional district.

Other opponents of the stimulus now pleading for stimulus money include:

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) opposed the stimulus and attacked it as a bloated government giveaway. However, both senators recently asked Gates to steer $50 million in stimulus money for a bio-energy project. Visiting a food bank aided by money from the stimulus, Chambliss exclaimed last week, “I’m very pleased that the government continues to play a key role, here, from the standpoint of providing food.”

Rep. Mary Fallin (R-OK) — who called the stimulus a “Big Brother spending program” — asked Army Secretary Pete Geren to use $8.4 million in stimulus money for repairs to buildings at two Oklahoma National Guard sites.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told CNS News last month, “I don’t think it [failed] - I know it. I said at the time, there’s no stimulus in the stimulus bill.” He also called the Recovery Act simply “welfare.” However, a recent press release from Inhofe hails $1.9 million in funding for a Claremore regional railroad-based trans-modal facility, noting the investment will “help spur additional economic growth” and that the senator is “happy” about the way the money is being used. Inhofe, of course, makes no mention that the money is authorized by the Recovery Act.

Rep. John Carter (R-TX) opposed the Recovery Act, and recently called the entire program a failure that should be “repealed.” Regardless, Carter’s public pronouncements did not stop him from requesting $621 million in hospital projects from the stimulus — then calling the funds a victory for the economy in central Texas.

Rep. Bill Young (R-FL), another stimulus opponent, now lists various links on his website to help his constituents “take advantage of the federal stimulus money.”

Congressional Republican leadership, who helped corral every single GOP House member and a nearly every Republican senator to oppose the Recovery Act, are also shamelessly attacking the stimulus while requesting stimulus money. As ThinkProgress has reported, House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) recently hosted a job fair filled with jobs fueled by the stimulus and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been taking credit for stimulus projects in his home state. Indeed, even Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), considered a leading figure for his party, toured his state handing out jumbo-sized checks containing millions of dollars of stimulus money. Rather than credit the Recovery Act, which he refers to as a failure, Jindal printed his own name on the checks.

Think Progress:Inhofe admits he’ll vote against health care bill without even reading it.

One of the most vociferous opponents of health care reform has been Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who previously promoted blocking reform because it would be a “huge gain” for the GOP. The Oklahoma-based Express-Star reports that Inhofe told a town hall crowd yesterday that he will vote against health reform legislation without even reading it or knowing what’s in it:

At a town hall meeting Wednesday Sen. Jim Inhofe told Chickasha residents he does not need to read the 1,000 page health care reform bill, he will simply vote against it.

I don’t have to read it, or know what’s in it. I’m going to oppose it anyways,” he said.

He went on to tell the crowd we are “almost reaching a revolution in this country” due to opposition to health reform. Inhofe is not alone in saying he will vote against any health reform bill. Last week Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) told Fox News that he doesn’t think a “single Republican” will vote for health care reform.


One of these days, it sure would be nice if Republicans felt the need to denounce this kind of radical, vile rhetoric.

At a town hall Wednesday night, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) told constituents, "We're almost reaching a revolution in this country."

Inhofe also said he doesn't need to know what's in a health care reform bill to vote against it.

"I don't have to read it, or know what's in it. I'm going to oppose it anyways," he said at the event in Chickasha, Okla.

The senator was in good company, with most of the audience agreeing with him and expressing their disdain for big government and Democrats. One man said, "No more compromise. We're losing our country."

I can't begin to understand why Inhofe and his like-minded extremists are so angry. But for an elected member of the United States Senate to speak publicly about the possibility of a "revolution" is deeply frightening.

What's more, let's not forget that Inhofe isn't the only one throwing around insane rhetoric like this. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has encouraged her supporters to "rise up" and be "armed and dangerous." Several GOP lawmakers are talking up the idea of "nullification," which is effectively secession-lite. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's former press secretary recently wrote about "the coming revolution," which he suggested might be similar to "Project Mayhem" from the movie "Fight Club." (In the film, "Project Mayhem" involved militarizing terrorist cells that blew up banks.)

Inhofe is a U.S. senator, and he's decided to fan the flames.

I'm reminded of something Josh Marshall wrote a few weeks ago: "[L]et's all collectively throw a little cold water on our faces and just realize that this is some really crazy stuff. The health care debate is now being driven by a perverse nonsense feedback loop in which the Palin/Limbaugh crowd says all sorts of completely insane lies, gets a lot of ... how shall we put it, impressionable people totally jacked up over a bunch of complete nonsense."

It's getting worse, the perverse nonsense feedback loop is getting louder, and elected members of Congress are dues-paying members the Palin/Limbaugh crowd.

It was just a couple of years ago when prominent conservatives told us criticism of the president and the United States government in the midst of a crisis was borderline, if not outright, treason. The love-it-or-leave-it crowd, after just seven months of a Democratic administration, has reached a very different conclusion about standards of patriotism in the 21st century.